Waiting time targets come under pressure as emergency departments fail
Official figures show that England’s key A&E departments have now missed the four hour waiting time target for 52 consecutive weeks.
Hospitals aim to see 95% of patients within the four hour time frame, however the last time A&E departments in 144 trusts hit that total over a seven day period was back in July last year.
However, NHS England officially measures the four hour target on a three monthly cycle, including smaller units, such as walk-in centres, in the final numbers. According to these figures, the target has been met over the past year, but the picture in major units is still worrying.
NHS England figures reveal that the number of visits to A&E have been steadily increasing for a number of years, with last year showing over 14.2 million attendances, which is an increase of 1.4% in two years. A bigger proportional rise of these cases are people who are being admitted into hospital for complex scenarios that need more time to be dealt with. Of the 14.2 million visits, just under 3.8 million concluded with a hospital admission, which is 5.7% higher than two years before.
Solutions such as GP units to deal with less serious cases are being discussed.
Dr Cliff Mann, of the College of Emergency Medicine, said “A lot of this is related to the ageing population and while the percentage rise may seem small we are still talking about a lot of people. We have a drastic shortage of doctors and that is hampering out ability to cope with rises in demand. We have to make the speciality more attractive.”
Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy said “We are increasingly hearing from patients about problems at A&E. It used to be just a winter phenomenon, but this shows it has become an issue all-year round.”