NHS leaders: Half of all A&Es will fail to hit waiting-list targets this winter

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More than half of A&E departments in England will fail to achieve government waiting-list targets this winter, according to a survey of NHS leaders. The research, conducted by the NHS Confederation, dismissed a £500m emergency fund announced last month by David Cameron to reduce A&E waiting times as a "sticking-plaster solution".

Of the 125 senior leaders including chief executives, commissioners, medical directors and chief nursing officers surveyed, 54 per cent admitted their hospitals will fail to achieve the target of 95 per cent of patients being seen within four hours.

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said a 51 per cent increase in emergency admissions in the last decade had left the NHS front line gravely exposed. "We have known for some time that pressures on A&E are at their highest ever, and the honest picture is one of a service facing unprecedented demand."

Andy Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary, criticised the Government's response so far as "woefully inadequate". "David Cameron has left A&E on the brink of a serious crisis. We are already in the middle of the worst year in A&E for a decade and now it looks like the coming winter could be even worse."

Almost a year to the day since Jeremy Hunt was appointed Secretary of State for Health, research from the Labour Party has found that Type 1 A&E units (24-hour, consultant-run units) in England have missed their waiting-list target for 41 of the previous 52 weeks – the worst results in a decade. The research also revealed that in the past year, the number of patients waiting in ambulances for more than 30 minutes to be admitted to A&E has doubled to 200,000.

Anna Soubry, health minister, said: "We know A&E departments are under pressure. There are over one million more people visiting A&E compared to three years ago. This is why we are already making sure the NHS is ready for the additional pressures winter brings. We have also set aside an additional £3.8bn … to help join up services, so that health and care services work more closely, keeping people healthier and providing more support out of hospital."

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