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 262.

    One of the reasons for waiting times in A&E is the large increase in population over the years,therefore demand has increased, at the same time there has been a big reduction in the no. of A&E's causing even greater demand on those that are left. At one time EVERY hospital had its own A&E, now its designated hospitals, and even some of those are being closed to cut costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Maybe if we didn't allow all of the world to access services for free then we wouldn't be in this situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    #201. Peter_Sym

    "#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. "

    I'm not "bad-mouthing" administrators - just saying there are 400,000 too many of them (out of 800,000) engaged in collecting stats, red tape and playing nanny to doctors!

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    With cuts in staff and abuse of the facility is there any surprise? Perhaps charges for drunks would help. A simple option would be that people with minor conditions or making inappropriate calls were, after triage, were passed through a door to a non-urgent department so they knew their conditions were non-urgent and would have to wait while true A&E cases were treated.

  • Comment number 258.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.


    "Just what has happened to this (once) civilised country?!!"

    We believed the lies told us in the right wing press that all tax is bad - even though it pays(ied!) for the NHS and made sure that we had sufficient beds in sufficient hospitals.

    Thatcher then fiddled the' we have too many beds report' so she could flog off the property to her pals and cut taxes (NOT!)

  • 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 255.

    That actually sounds pretty good considering 2003 was right in the middle of the huge NHS spending increases under Labour Vs now when we're in the middle of a huge spending freeze.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    I am sorry butt Julie but this is an uneducated comment, I have regular bouts of an eye condtion called'Iritus' it won't kill me in 4 hours but if left untreated it will blind me.

    And guess what, the only way to get treatment is to got A&E

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    The problem with the NHS is managers that are not fit for purposes are moved sideways, this is also an apparent problem with our hosts the beeb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    It has nothing to do with immigration
    It has nothing to do with the poles
    It has nothing to do with alcohol

    It has everything to do with cutting budgets, firing nurses and the back door privatisation of OUR NHS

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    Part of the problem is that in some areas it is difficult to get an appointment with your GP, also if you do not live local to where you work (which is a fairly common occurrence these days) that can also make it more difficult trying to get a GP appointment (think of the situation if you have an hour drive each way or a similar train journey).

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    BBC, do you think you can sort out the HYS ? It's terrible . . and make it easier to locate posted comments in a topic ?

    I think in the 10 years of the website, you can change it once . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.


    The single biggest source of that paperwork is the UK public's seemingly incessant apetitie for suing anyone & everyone.

    Most attempted claims against the NHS have no merit & lead to no pay out, but the NHS has to have the paper trail to prove in court it was not their fault......

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    This should come as no surprise

    - the reduced requirement of GPs to see patients - especially at weekends means that the only other option is A&E.

    Many doctors don't want to work in A&E and eventually they will be so overloaded that the only option some people will have is to visit a private GP or clinic.

    The NHS is going the way of dentistry - PRIVITISATION through the back door.

  • Comment number 247.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.


    When you reduce the nursing staff by 6000 what does Cameron expect? I’ll tell you, he expects you all listen to his lies when he says the NHS is in safe hands.

    The trouble is that the idiots do

  • Comment number 245.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    #242 Our NHS trust has recently put up posters around Nottingham claiming that '1 in 4 A+E visits are unnecessary) which suggests 75% ARE NOT time wasters.

    Incidentally slip on a spilled drink in a bar while sober or get punched in the face by a drunk and you'll be 'an alcohol related admission'.

  • Comment number 243.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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