Thousands left waiting more than four hours in A&E
Thousands of A&E patients were left more than four hours before being dealt with at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust in December, as it recorded its worst waiting time performance in five years.
Medical professionals warn that services are at breaking point nationally after December saw a record low proportion of patients seen in time – and they fear it will get worse before it gets better.
The required target for A&E departments is to admit, transfer or discharge at least 95% of patients within four hours of arrival.
But NHS statistics show that patients at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust waited longer on 5,967 occasions in December – 35.3% of all attendances.
This was the worst performance for that month since 2015, the earliest period for which data is available.
The vast majority of NHS A&E departments across England fell short of the 95% target in December.
Nationally, just 79.8% of patients were seen within four hours – the worst performance for any month since records began in 2010.
A&E departments dealt with 2.2 million visits in December – a 6.5% rise on the same month last year.
And, during 2019, the national service saw 1.2 million more A&E attendances than in 2018.
President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson, said there are not enough staff and far too few hospital beds in which to treat the rising number of patients.
“These figures show that our emergency departments are at their limits. The current situation is very difficult for both patients and staff,” she added. “We fear, though, that things will get worse before they get better. Change is coming but we need election promises by the Government to be kept.”
Dr Simon Walsh, the British Medical Association’s emergency medicine lead, asked: “How many wake-up calls does the Government need?
“These figures are truly alarming and serve as yet further evidence that our NHS simply doesn’t have the resources, staff, or capacity to cope with rocketing demand.”
He said the Government must scrap the “ridiculous” pension taxation system, which has seen many doctors scale back their hours to avoid paying increased tax bills after new rules were introduced.
Dr Walsh added: “We need a long-term fix to this crisis so that doctors can get back to doing what they do best – caring for their patients.”
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “The continued increase in people’s need for care underlines the need for more beds and staff across hospital and community services, which is why the Government’s commitment to increase the number of nurses by 50,000 and invest in new facilities will be crucial over the coming years.”
More by this authorJeremy Ransome