A&E targets hit 15 year low
A significant deterioration in A&E wait time performance has been reported today, in data published by NHS England.
In January, only 84.4 per cent of patients were treated within the four-hour target – the worst wait time figures since the target was introduced in 2004 and falls well below the 95 per cent threshold set out by the Government.
The last time that the 95 per cent threshold target for this was met was July 2015.
Despite lower levels of illness associated with flu so far this year, it appears that there has been a significant increase in severely ill patients – further stretching already exacerbated hospital services.
More than 80,000 patients were left in temporary waiting areas inside hospitals – periods commonly referred to as ‘trolley waits’ – for more than four hours.
Overall 330,000 patients were waiting longer in hospitals then they should have been – with hospitals citing significant problems in finding beds.
“This figure is extremely concerning as it implies that there is no more capacity in the system than last year for the very sickest people with many units full, leading to either delays in treatment,” said Dr Nick Scriven, President of the Society for Acute Medicine.
He continued, “With the Royal College of Emergency Medicine figures showing even worse performance against the four-hour target, these figures point to a service under equally severe strain as last winter.
“Any NHS worker will tell you that the stresses and strains are very real and ongoing with no let-up in sight.
“Perhaps the lack of public discussion about the pressures facing us this winter reflect the reality that frontline staff grimly accept that things are tough and have no energy leftover to get agitated in the face of no real improvements over recent years of struggle.”
With the gap between NHS’s service capacity and the care that the public need from it widening at an alarming rate, there are concerns that ongoing events in Westminster surrounding Brexit have become increasingly distracting.
“Today’s figures remind us that the NHS is fighting a losing battle in trying to meet its commitments to provide timely health care in the face of the pressure it is under,” said Professor John Appleby, Chief Economist at Nuffield Trust, “There is a risk that we lose sight of these problems as Brexit distracts us, or become numbed as we forget the last time targets were met.
“But this situation has a serious impact on hundreds of thousands of patients, and will be demoralising for many staff.”