A&E waiting times at nine-year high: More than 300,000 patients do not see doctor for at least four hours

Waits before being admitted from A&E into hospital – so-called trolley waits – of more than four hours, have also risen to almost 7 per cent, the highest level since 2004

More than 300,000 patients had to wait for over four hours in A&E between January and March as Britain’s emergency health services continued to show the strain from ever-increasing demand.

Two new reports into A&E performance at the start of this year reveal that Trusts missed Government targets for the first time since June 2011 and that the knock-on effects of A&E overcrowding are being felt across the health service, with scheduled appointments being cancelled and cancer targets being missed.

Analysis by the King’s Fund found that 5.9 per cent of patients – 313,000 – waited for more than four hours in A&E, an increase of more than a third on the previous three months and up 40 per cent on the same period last year. According to Government targets no more than five per cent of patients should wait more than four hours.

Waits before being admitted from A&E into hospital – so-called trolley waits – of more than four hours, have also risen to almost 7 per cent, the highest level since 2004.

In a separate report, health care regulator Monitor said that more than half of all NHS Foundation Trusts with A&E wards had breached targets, and the effects were beginning to be felt further down the system. In some cases Trusts have had to cancel elective procedures to deal with increased A&E pressures. Some patients had to wait longer before starting cancer treatment – partly due to reductions in capacity associated with emergency pressures, the report said.   

Recent figures showed that 220 planned operations were cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice in the first three months of this year.

The figures represent the latest evidence that A&E wards are struggling to cope with increased demand, and follow reports that the number of ambulances diverted away from overcrowded A&E wards has increased by 24 per cent in a year and that the number of patients waiting more than half an hour in the back of an ambulance increased by 100,000 between 2010 and 2012. 

The Kings Fund’s chief economist, John Appleby, said that pressures on emergency care were “a barometer for the NHS”.

“The worryingly high number of patients waiting longer than four hours in the last quarter of 2012/13 is a clear warning sign that the health system is under severe strain,” he said.

A spokesman for the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, blamed the previous Government for allowing GPs to opt out of out-of-hours care, leading more people to resort to A&E services.

“A&E services are facing increased pressure because of Labour’s disastrous GP contract and problems with integration that they failed to address,” the spokesman said.

GPs have rejected Mr Hunt’s suggestions that their failure to properly manage out-of-hours care has been responsible for increased demand at A&E. Failures with the new 111 non-emergency phone number, which has mistakenly sent people to A&E, have also been blamed.

A Department of Health spokesman said that A&E departments had since improved and had now hit their targets for five weeks in a row.

“Clearly the NHS had a difficult winter and A&E departments were under pressure,” the spokesman said. “This is partly due to the fact that there are over one million more people visiting A&E compared to three years ago.”

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

    £45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

    Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

    Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

    £50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

    Java Developer - 1 year contract

    £350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone