A&E surplus makes waiting times worst in a decade
Hundreds of patients are being forced to wait more than four hours as the NHS continues to struggle with target A&E waiting times, according to an official NHS data revealed on Friday.
Figures released by the Department of Health show 32 out of 88 NHS hospitals fail to treat accident patients within four hours of arrival.
Over the last year there has been an approximate 250% rise in the number of patients being made to wait four hours or more. Indeed, this year 3,325 patients were forced to wait longer than four hours compared to 13,081 patients last year with patients at hospitals in Coventry, Warwickshire, Wrexham and Bath reportedly being the most affected by long waiting times.
The mounting figures have been blamed on deep cuts to council care budgets and the reorganisation of NHS services that has taken place in recent few weeks, which has lead to severe cuts to frontline staff and A&E closures.
Commenting on the falling targets, Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “With fewer nurses and rising demand, emergency departments are now at a risk of being overwhelmed. The chaotic closure of NHS Direct also risks sending more patients to A&E unnecessarily. This situation could become very dangerous over the coming months.”
The revelation also coincides with the introduction of the 111 non-emergency phone number service, which has already been blamed for increasing the number of emergency call-outs and trips to A&E.
A spokesman for NHS England stated: “We are taking action to help improve performance in the future. There will be fines where there are delays of 30 minutes or more in ambulance handovers and we have set a minimum standard so that no patient should experience long trolley waits.”
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham commented: “We have repeatedly warned Jeremy Hunt about the intense pressures on A&E and urged him to get a grip. His failure to face up to this problem cannot continue.”