NHS in England misses key A&E target
The NHS in England narrowly missed its four-hour A&E waiting time target last week, official figures show.
Figures for the week up to January 5 show 94.3% of patients were seen within four hours - below the 95% target.
It comes despite a drop in attendances, with visits down by over 5% compared to a normal winter week.
In theory this should have made it easier for A&E departments to meet the target to treat, discharge or admit people within four hours.
Once the more minor centres, such as walk-in centres and minor injury units, are discounted performance was even lower, at 91.5%.
The data shows that two thirds of the 144 trusts that run the major A&Es missed the target.
The overall target was missed in the first two weeks of December, but then returned above the 95% mark in the week leading up to Christmas and during the Christmas week.
Dr Barbara Hakin, deputy chief executive for NHS England, said there were many positives to take from the figures.
"The first few weeks of the calendar year are generally the toughest for the NHS, but this week's figures are over a percentage point better than the same week last year.
"This is hugely encouraging for patients and follows an excellent performance over the Christmas holiday period."
She added: "All this suggests that the NHS has prepared well and pulled out all the stops on behalf of the public. I want to thank the frontline teams from across the NHS who made this happen - they should be given the credit they deserve."
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said the figures showed a "worrying slump" in A&E performance.
He added: "Experts warned the government about the A&E crisis but they refused to listen. Just weeks after ministers said 'the crisis is behind us', patients have experienced the worst week in A&E so far this winter."
But a spokeswoman for the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that was "disingenuous".
She added: "The NHS has never met its A&E target at this time of year, including when Andy Burnham was health secretary."