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A&E targets increasingly being missed


6 January 2015

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Target A&E waiting times across the UK are increasingly being missed figures released by the NHS are expected to show.

The data – which will cover the October to December quarter of 2014 – will show that the number of A&E departments meeting the four-hour waiting time target has fallen to its worst level for a decade.

From the weekly statistics already available up to mid-December it is clear the target which demands that A&E units see 95% of patients in four hours has almost certainly been missed in England.

Target A&E waiting times across the UK are increasingly being missed figures released by the NHS are expected to show.

The data – which will cover the October to December quarter of 2014 – will show that the number of A&E departments meeting the four-hour waiting time target has fallen to its worst level for a decade.

From the weekly statistics already available up to mid-December it is clear the target which demands that A&E units see 95% of patients in four hours has almost certainly been missed in England.

Performance is also on track to fall below the 94.1% mark recorded in the first three months of 2013 signalling a decline in the efficiency of the departments.

It comes amid growing pressures on hospitals with a number declaring "major incidents" in recent days because of A&E pressures. “Major incidents” are called by the NHS when an event or a series of events occurs that can not be handled by the routine services available.

A&E units in England have struggled since the end of the summer. The target demands that A&E units see 95% of patients in four hours, but since the end of August it has only been met once, according to the weekly figures that are published.

From the weekly data available from the start of October to the middle of December the current average for the quarter is running at just above 93%, although in the last weekly data released before Christmas (On the 19 December 2014) only 89.8% of patients were seen in time

England publishes weekly data with Scotland and Wales releasing it monthly or quarterly.

In Wales the data from November shows 83.8% of patients were seen in time.

In Northern Ireland more than 80% of patients were seen within four hours in November.

Scotland has a slightly tougher waiting time target – 98% of patients should be seen in four hours – but in September 93.5% were.

It means according to latest data all parts of the UK are missing the A&E waiting time target.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of think tank, Nuffield Trust, said: "All the stops are being pulled out to meet waiting times targets at A&E departments, a focus that is quite explicitly being driven by the election. But the cracks are showing.

"There have been big spikes in the numbers of people needing to be admitted to hospital in an emergency for reasons that are not very clear.

"We may be reaching the point at which general practice, community services and social care can no longer contain the growing demand for their services."

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “In the longer term, for the NHS to meet rising demand we need to address the underlying problems in the system. Preventing unnecessary A&E admissions by having an effective, out-of-hours telephone service is an important part of this, so there needs to be a marked improvement in NHS 111 to ensure it is clinician-led.

“We also need a long-term solution to the crisis in social care, to reduce the number of patients being inappropriately held in hospitals. Outside of hospitals, we need to support general practice which is struggling to cope with unprecedented levels of demand and a shortage of GPs.

“There is no getting away from the fact the NHS needs more investment, so we must also ensure that plans to deal with rising demand on the NHS, as outlined in the Five Year Forward View, are backed with proper funding.”

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