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 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 201.

    #197 My wife is one of the 'administrators' you bad mouth. She gets £17K a year to arrange theatre lists. She makes sure a theatre is free, a doctor is booked to do the clinic then makes sure they attend. You want to replace her with a doctor or nurse (earning far more). Why exactly?

    NHS admin staff buy drugs, hire staff, arrange holidays, pensions, pay. All the things doctors shouldn't do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    I have never been to an A&E department and seen people just stand around and chatting. I have occassionally seen members of staff talking to each other to exchange information on patients - perhaps that somebody judges that idle gossip says something about them? On the few occassions I've been to A&E the staff have always been working hard - one of the few areas of the NHS I would say that of!

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Doctors' surgeries could provide small procedures like stitching cuts? Yes, there ARE people going to A&E for trivial things, but there are also many who don't go when they should because of the long waiting time (especially the elderly), who might end up receiving treatment later. Emergencies have to take precedence. We should expect that. And value the fact that it's free at point of delivery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    I was taken to A&E with head & facial injuries. Generally I have no complaints, I did wait 12 hrs to be stitched, I had to wait for the plastics team. My concern is in regards to the elderly. I'm 29, the rest of the ward were all 70+ and suffering from dementia, the nurses weren't always available for patients who were often scared and confused. The nurses were just snowed under.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    Long waiting times are caused by BAD MANAGEMENT. A few common sense tips.

    1) Cut red tape.

    2) Sack the 400,000 administrators hired under stats-obsessed Labour.

    3) Replace them with front line staff.

    4) Charge drunks / druggies the full cost of their treatment. End Fri/Sat congestion.

    5) Charge new immigrants / visitors / illegals for treatment.

    6) Fire lazy / incompetent staff


  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Lots of unnecessary 'emergency' visits - the same scumbags who phone 999 because they can't find their lottery ticket. There's no legislating for stupidity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    180. Swigski
    If someone visits A+E, is triaged by a nurse, and they are not deemed to be an Emergency or a life threatening case, they should be referred back to their GP..
    The Ambulance service Paramedics should have the power to do the same therefore avoiding unnecessary journeys to A+E.
    Great. Nurse and Ambulance staff guessing if its flu or meningitis. Hard to see that going wrong....

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    I wonder if these budgets which these finance directors are said to be 'worrying about' have anything to do with the USA and EU plans for the Broad Trade Deal, a move which seeks to reshape global trade standards?

    I'll bet they are 'worrying' - not as much as we are though, who are deeply concerned about loosing access to medical treatment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    My experiences with the NHS have always been pretty poor.

    In A+E it has always been the case while people sit and wait for care the staff stand around and chat and generally don't work particularly hard.

    I don't think healthcare should be privatised, but the status quo can't really continue. A friend who works in the NHS advised me to 'not get ill', tells you everything you need to know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    92.Moneydude "I have been to A&E recently on referral from my GP and I had to wait 5 hours for a bloke to spend 5 minutes looking at me to tell me I was fine.
    I've had similar - called NHS direct for advice on numbness in my arm, asked all the stroke questions ('No' to all) referred to A&E, turned out to be a trapped nerve, but the Dr told me NHS-D still thought it was a stroke!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    Would the Con party stooges like to tell me exactly why the population would spend hours queing in A&E if they could get treatment by some reasonable appointment system? A&E is overloaded because the parts of the sytem that should be dealing is failing due to cuts and not providing treatment! Think about it, why would people spend hours queueing for minor ailments otherwise? Illogical to blame pt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    A&E Log Jam.
    Same old story. Not enough beds due to bed shortages with wards being closed due to saving money.
    Thats how there is such a wait. No fault of the DRs and Nurses. Just the bean counters attempting to reach financial targets before health targets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Dear Librarian,

    These people usually don't contact their GP before going to A+E.

    drlounger, GP

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    @182 bristol

    I thought the NHS was ring-fenced and it was not included in the cuts?!

    I would start improving the NHS by cutting consultants salaries.....they have rocketed up to £500,000 p.a.I have read in The Times.

    Also, stop contracting out through agencies, because the Agency takes a massive cut from NHS money.....a real waste!

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    The ambulance service can and does triage patients; in many areas there are alternative care pathways available to ambulance crews, who can call out a GP, a nurse specialist, make a GP appointment for patients and in some cases treat them. Were it not for the ambulance service there would be far more patients in A&E.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Hardly supprising that A&e wait times are getting longer , you cannot cut a so much without a sensible game plan in place, since this ConDem Gang opened the AXE Cupboarad ministers have been running around cutting down anything they don, t understand.All of of the social fabric of the country is being axed by incompitent MInisters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    #98- Bradford.

    I'm afriad your information is incorrect. NHS salaries have been frozen or are being reduced.
    NHS funding has fallen in real terms and one Billion pounds was returned to the treasury in the last financial year by NHS managers keen to get a promotion and willing to live with the fact that the public wont get the care they should have.
    A shameful situation

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    We must stop blaming the public for attending A&E for non- emergencies. Many don't know where else to go and the terminology used for alternatives is so inconsistent that it's small wonder: Walk-in centre, minor injuries unit, urgent care centre, etc. Some consistency in terms of nomenclature and provision and then a national PR campaign promoting these alternatives would make it easier for folk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    180 Swigiski "If someone visits A+E, is triaged by a nurse, and they are not deemed to be an Emergency or a life threatening case, they should be referred back to their GP."

    Ah, right then, so they never get treatment for the problem? Think about it, I'm sure most people would much rather have a quick, no waiting list appointment to see their GP if they could do this. Instead a long wait in A&E!


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