Health

A&E in England misses target for whole of winter

Hospital sign Image copyright GUSTOIMAGES/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

The NHS in England has missed its A&E waiting time target for every week of winter, figures show.

Hospitals are meant to see 95% of patients in four hours, but during the 18 weeks since the start of November that has been missed every week.

NHS England has also admitted the 2014-15 average will be below the target - the first time this has happened for a whole year.

Hospitals in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also struggled.

Each nation has missed its target, which relates to the time from arrival to being discharged, admitted or transferred, during November, December and January.

Northern Ireland has also published a figure for February, which showed 71.4% of patients were seen in fours, the lowest its been this winter.

The data comes as the BBC's NHS Winter project, which has tracked the performance of local hospitals, finishes.

The project has focused on the biggest units - known as type ones - from the start of November to last Sunday. The national figure also includes smaller centres, such as walk-in clinics.

Sixty-three of the 140 major trusts missed the target every single week. Just one - Luton and Dunstable - managed to achieve the 95% mark every week.

But Dr Sarah Pinto-Duschinsky, director of operations at NHS England, said the health service still deserved praise for the way it had managed the pressures.

"This winter NHS staff in England pulled out all the stops and, compared with last year, provided care for an incredible 190,000 more people coming to A&E and 51,000 more being admitted to hospital as an emergency.

"These record numbers - up by between 6% and 9% some weeks - mean that, although the NHS won't have met the A&E average 95% target for the full year, staff continued even during this busiest winter ever to treat more than nine in ten people within four hours.

"And most patients were, in fact, treated in under an hour. This is not only the best performance in the UK but probably of any major country internationally."


The winter in numbers

Image copyright AFP
  • From November to the end of February just over 7m visits were made to A&Es in England - 190,000 more than the year before.
  • In the busiest week - the one ending 21 December - 446,000 people arrived, nearly 10% more than the same week the year before and the highest ever recorded.
  • There were 1.82m emergency admissions - the most complicated cases that cannot be dealt with by A&E - up 51,000 on last year.
  • Ambulances experienced delays on 116,123 occasions from November to the start of March - up 25% on the year before.
  • There were delays in discharging patients nearly 320,000 times - a rise of 29% on the previous winter.

How bad has winter been for the NHS?


The publication of the winter data came as a Nuffield Trust report warned the pressures in the NHS were so great that even the best hospitals in England were struggling.

The think tank looked at performance in this Parliament against six targets, covering A&E, operations, cancer and diagnostic tests.

It found most patients were still being seen within the target times at the 156 hospital trusts. But it said performance at even the top sites was declining.

Report author Holly Dorning said: "We've known that hospitals have been struggling to meet the four-hour A&E target for a while.

"But the fact that we are starting to see problems in other areas, like access to planned treatment, is a real concern.

"As this study makes clear, warning lights are now starting to flash across the wider hospital system."

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