The BBC has reported that the number of long waits at Accident and Emergency units across the UK has more than doubled in the last 4 years.
More than 3 million patients who have visited UK A&Es over the past year have waited for over 4 hours – this represents a 120% increase. One might assume that this increase was down to rising demand however the BBC report notes that the number of reported visits has only increased by 7%.
Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said the A&E system had been “stretched to its very limits”. This view was generally shared amongst NHS staff, with doctors and nurses agreeing that the findings showed the NHS could no longer cope with what was being asked of it and patients were being put at risk.
“Life-threatening cases are prioritised. But a crowded emergency department adds risk. We get delays to assessment, pain relief and antibiotics.”
Royal College of Nursing general secretary Janet Davies also agreed, describing the situation as “intolerable”.
Regionally in England the West Midlands has the worst performance followed by the North West – patients visiting A&Es in those areas are more than twice as likely to wait over four hours than those in the North East, the best-performing region.
More locally, in October United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (which includes Lincoln County Hospital, Pilgrim Hospital and Grantham Hospital) were at 77.6% target for treating/admitting patients within a 4 hour period. The national target is level is 95%.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, acknowledged the issues in a recent statement –
“We are not where we would want to be as we head into winter. We cannot say with certainty how tough this winter will be, but the likelihood is that services will be sorely tested.“