Accident and Emergency (A&E) waiting times in the UK are at their worst on record as the National Health Service (NHS) comes under intense pressure before what doctors and hospital bosses fear will be a very tough winter for the service, reports The Guardian. Less than three-quarters (74.5%) of people who sought care at A&E unit in England in October were treated and then discharged, admitted or transferred within four hours – the smallest proportion since the target was introduced in 2004.
That is far below the 95% of patients that ministers and NHS chiefs say should be dealt with by A&E staff within four hours.
Dr Rebecca Fisher, a GP and senior policy fellow at the Health Foundation said: “Funding for the NHS has failed to keep pace with a rising need for healthcare. The NHS does not have enough staff, or enough equipment, to meet the needs of the population it serves. Staff work incredibly hard under increasing pressure, but ultimately can’t protect patients from feeling the effects. Behind these figures are people waiting often long and anxious waits, struggling in pain, or at risk of illness worsening in the meantime.”
The figures prompted warnings that patients were suffering because of fast mounting delays in accessing vital care.
A&E performance was also its worst ever on NHS England’s preferred measurement, which includes people seen in hospital-based units, urgent care centres and walk-in centres. Just 83.6% of everyone seeking help in all types of A&Es were treated within four hours – again the lowest percentage since records began.
The grim statistics are likely to add to growing fears in the NHS that services could really struggle to cope this coming winter with the annual spike in demand, especially if there is a major flu outbreak and with snow already falling in parts of England.
The report says many hospitals are also finding it increasingly difficult to respond to a fast-growing need for both urgent and non-urgent care because at least a third of doctors have begun working fewer shifts as a result of a continuing dispute over their pensions.
[link url="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/nov/14/ae-waiting-times-in-england-hit-worst-ever-level"]The Guardian report[/link]