Waiting time targets in A&E hit new 14-year low


Waiting time performance in accident and emergency departments has hit its lowest level since it was introduced 14 years ago, the latest NHS England figures show.

Last week, as much of the country was gripped by a big freeze, just 85% of patients were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours of arrival in A&E.

The previous worst figure was recorded in December - 85.1% - equalling January 2018's record low and the worst result since the target was introduced in 2004.

(PA Graphics)

NHS England said staff had been faced with working in a "perfect storm" of appalling weather, persistently high hospital admissions due to flu, and a renewed spike in norovirus.

A spokesman added that, despite the challenging conditions, the NHS treated 160,000 more A&E patients within four hours this winter compared with the previous year.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said it was calling on patients to write to their local MP asking for action to address the serious challenges facing A&E departments.

It said the "unprecedented move" was in response to the figures, which also showed the worst ever performance of 76.9% at major emergency departments.

Its president, Dr Taj Hassan, said: "Performance that once would have been regarded as utterly unacceptable has now become normal and things are seemingly only getting worse for patients.

"Let's be very clear - the current crisis in our emergency departments and in the wider NHS is not the fault of patients. It is not because staff aren't working hard enough, not because of the actions of individual trusts, not because of the weather or norovirus, not purely because of influenza, immigration or inefficiencies and not because performance targets are unfeasible.

"The current crisis was wholly predictable and is due to a failure to prioritise the need to increase healthcare funding on an urgent basis.

"We need an adequate number of hospital beds, more resources for social care and to fund our staffing strategies that we have previously agreed in order to deliver decent basic dignified care."