A&E waits 'highest for a decade'

Hospital ward Long waits in A&E are rising, but still remain within the government's target

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The number of people in England facing long A&E waits has risen by a fifth in a year - and is now at its highest level for a decade, a report suggests.

The King's Fund review found from October to December 2012 more than 232,000 patients waited more than four hours.

That is a rise of 21% compared with the same period in 2011 and the highest figure for those months since 2003.

A&E doctors blamed a combination of rising pressures and staff shortages.

The number is still within the government's target.

A&E units only have to see 95% of patients within four hours, to reflect the fact that some flexibility is needed to allow doctors to prioritise the patients with the greatest need. The 232,000 figure represents 4.3% of patients.

The think-tank also found evidence of patients who needed to be admitted on to a ward being left on trolleys for long periods of time.

The report - part of the King's Fund quarterly update on NHS performance - also found a growing number of finance directors were concerned about budgets.

'Growing worries'

But there was some positive news.

It said waits for non-emergency hospital operations were holding steady, while infection rates were falling.

Nonetheless, report author Prof John Appleby said: "The NHS faces unprecedented pressures and there are growing worries that patient care will suffer."

College of Emergency Medicine president Mike Clancy added: "The report mirrors the experiences being relayed to us by our members.

"It is clear to us that emergency departments are under pressure and we are concerned about the impact on patients.

"A significant contributor to the situation is the workforce crisis."

But Health Minister Lord Howe said: "We have been absolutely clear that the NHS must find the efficiencies needed to deal with increased demand on the service without compromising on patient care and services.

"We expect the NHS to look seriously at how it can improve how care is provided."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    In 2004 I was feeling “unwell”, and had been feeling like it all weekend, I was going to wait till Monday to try and get an appointment with my GP but ended up going to the local A&E late on the Sunday Night. I was examined, admitted, and had my appendix whipped out the next morning. If I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t be here now. My symptoms were not what you would expect for appendicitis

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    So long as emergency treatment is porvided quickly, and people with non-severe conditions can sit and wait, why complain when healthcare is free?

    In the USA, people have to pay extortionate amounts of money even for emergency treatment, I'd rather wait for my pilonidal sinus to be treated freely than get immediate treatment with a large cost second only to a mortgage!

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    I work in a hospital.The number of inappropriate visits to the hospital A & E is phenomenal.Some people do not understand the words Accident or Emergency and include ear infections, colds and even a whitlow on a finger as emergencies. With such staggering ignorance and thoughtlessness, no wonder our hospitals are always full.Oh-and if you can't see your GP, speak to the Practice Manager !

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    If you are still sat waiting, alive,breathing and complaining after 4 hours in A&E, you clearly weren't in an emergency condition after all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    I wonder if this report takes into account the growing number of people who are going to A&E with problems that aren't an emergency? Given the rise of people using the EMERGENCY services for trivial matters I'd wager a large amount of people clogging up A&E could be easily dealt with at a GP or pharmacy.


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