A&E waiting times in England have reached their worst level since the four-hour target was introduced in 2004, the NHS Combined Performance Summary shows.
In January, only 84.4% of patients who attended A&E were treated or admitted in four hours which is well below the threshold of 95%. More than 80,000 patients were also kept waiting a further four hours or more to be transferred to a ward after their wait in A&E.
‘The NHS is seeing ever-increasing numbers of patients in A&E and is buckling under the strain,’ said Nick Ville, Director of Policy at the NHS Confederation.
‘Despite the best efforts of frontline staff, the number of patients in England treated within target times at A&E reached significant lows. Yet we should recognise that this is still an achievement for staff, despite us not meeting the target. We need to find a more sustainable way of providing care to an increasingly aging population with ever-more complex needs. The new NHS Long Term Plan, with its emphasis on joined-up community care, is good news for patients, who should see some of this intense pressure ease if the plan is implemented well.’
It means nearly 330,000 patients waited longer than they should with hospitals reporting significant problems finding beds for those needing to be kept in.
‘Speak to anybody at the coalface and they will tell you that it’s patients who are paying the price for the lack of staff and overcrowding at A&Es,’ said Director of RCN England Patricia Marquis. ‘Chronic underfunding of social care pushes older people to A&E and too many others come when they can’t see a GP or get advice in the community.’