The number of A&E units missing targets has trebled in a year, as the Government was accused of presiding over an unprecedented “summer A&E crisis”.
Between July and September, 39 departments failed to meet the Government’s key target of seeing 95 per cent of patients within four hours, new quarterly figures from NHS England show.
Last year only 14 units missed the target for the same period.
The highest single weekly A&E this year came in early July, at the height of the heat wave. In total, 5,520,522, people visited an A&E ward in England between July and September – representing 27,000 more visits than the same period last year.
A major review of England’s emergency care due later in the year is expected to say that too many patients are attending A&E wards when they do not need to. Another study has blamed the long queues at A&E on hospitals’ failure to discharge patients quickly enough
The Government recently announced £500m of additional funding for emergency care over the next two years and has committed £3.8bn of the health budget to joining up health and social care services, which, it is hoped, will improve access to care for vulnerable elderly people who would otherwise depend heavily on A&E services.
Across England, the NHS was still hitting Government targets, with 96 per cent of all patients seen within four hours. A Department of Health spokesman said that the figure was “testament to the hard work of staff” but admitted more work needed to be done to ensure patients had access to the right urgent and emergency care.
But the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said that the Government had to shoulder responsibility for queues at A&E, and blamed job cuts, as well as the “ill-judged re-organisation” forced on the NHS earlier this year by the Health and Social Care Act, for creating chaos in the system.
“These figures confirm [David Cameron] has presided over the first summer A&E crisis in living memory,” he said. “The Government cannot continue to ignore the warnings. Until ministers face up to the fundamental causes - the collapse of social care and front-line job losses - the NHS will continue to struggle.”