New figures from the College of Emergency Medicine make sorry reading for our nation’s health service, as hospitals continue to slip further and further away from their four hour A&E performance targets.
Waiting times continue to escalate in overcrowded A&E departments, with the latest numbers showing that 88% of patients were treated or admitted within four hours – significantly below the 95% target. As well as a struggle to get patients seen by A&E departments, the BBC has reported that there are also problems getting them to leave – in some hospitals, a fifth of all beds are occupied by patients who are ready to leave but cannot be discharged because of a lack of community services available for them.
Photo credit: BBC
The NHS has taken steps to tackle the issue of overcrowding, with three quarters of UK hospitals increasing their stock of beds in an effort to relieve pressure and a growing number of previously routine operations now cancelled. Despite this, though, the problem continues to grow worse and worse and according to the President of the College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Cliff Mann, the “worst is yet to come.”
Figures show that A&E waiting times have continued to worsen over the past seven weeks
He said: “The majority of hospitals have endeavoured to increase the number of beds available to cope. Despite this, elective operations have had to be cancelled and postponed as bed capacity is insufficient to cope.”
The data collected from the college contains information on waiting times from the past seven weeks, monitoring the level of pressure on hospitals during winter. It shows a gradual worsening in performance since the beginning of October, when just over 92% of patients were seen within the target window of four hours.
Weekly data was previously made available by NHS England and the government themselves, but this stopped recently with data now published monthly with a six-week time lag. The latest information from the NHS, then, is from September and shows the four hour target being missed, along with other targets related to ambulance response times, cancer care and diagnostics tests.
This unsustainable pressure on our national health service comes as a result of the population’s struggle to receive the primary care that they need. With millions of us struggling to get a GP appointment within a week, patients turn to A&E for what are, quite often, non-urgent matters. Our dynamic telehealth service, Now GP, is aiming to alleviate the pressure on our NHS by supplying the public and businesses with a reliable and affordable alternative to primary healthcare.