Two thirds of A&Es 'miss winter wait time target'

Nearly two thirds of England's major A&Es missed the waiting time target this winter, BBC analysis shows.

Hospitals are meant to see 95% of patients in four hours, but just 52 of the 144 type one trusts achieved this over the 20-week period to 23 March.

Overall 92.9% of patients seen by the major units over winter were seen in four hours.

However, once the smaller walk-in clinics, known as type threes, are taken into account the target was hit with 95.3% of patients seen in four hours.

Performance in England also tended to be better than other parts of the UK.

In December - the most recent month for which data for all nations is available - just over 95% of patients were seen in four hours in England.

That compares to 93.5% in Scotland, 89.4% in Wales and 76.3% in Northern Ireland.

Performance in England is also up on last year when the four-hour target was missed between January and March with 94.1% of patients seen within the timeframe.

But as the BBC analysis - based on data from NHS England - shows the overall figures mask the problems being felt by many individual trusts.

Two trusts - King's College in London and University Hospitals of Leicester - saw average performance for the winter drop below the 85% barrier.

This comes despite the mild winter - it has been the fifth warmest since 1910 - and low levels of respiratory illness, such as flu and acute bronchitis.

This has helped relieve the pressure on the NHS in terms of how ill patients have been.

However, in terms of attendance, the numbers visiting hospital have remained high.

Gordon Miles, of the College of Emergency Medicine, says: "This winter has been much better than many anticipated, but our members are still telling us many areas are under severe pressure.

"The weather and lack of flu has been a big factor in ensuring performance has been maintained."

But a Department of Health spokeswoman said another factor was the extra money - £400m - that was given to the A&E system in the lead up to winter.

This has been spent on extra staff in A&E units as well as trying to curb demand by extending access to community services, such as GPs and pharmacists.

"Despite A&Es being busier than ever before for this time of year, the NHS has met the performance standard," the Department of Health spokesman added.

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Produced by Dominic Bailey, Ransome Mpini, Charlotte Thornton and John Walton

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