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Last year was worst on record for A&E waiting times, NHS figures show

The data is the worst since figures were first collated in 2004

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 11 April 2019 19:54 BST
The 95 per cent standard has not been met since July 2015
The 95 per cent standard has not been met since July 2015 (Getty)

The worst year on record for A&E waiting times has been recorded by the NHS between April 2018 and March 2019.

In total, 88 per cent of patients were treated or admitted within four hours between April 2018 and March 2019, NHS England data shows. The figure was down from 88.3 per cent in 2017-18 and 89.1 per cent in 2016-17.

It was the lowest since figures were first collated in 2004.

However, the number of people seen in A&E within the four-hour target was higher last year than ever before. More than 21,800,000 people who attended emergency departments were seen within the target in 2018-19.

It comes as the NHS prepares to pilot new targets which could lead to changes in the way A&E performance is measured.

Under the new plans, patients with the most serious conditions will receive rapid treatment within an hour, while people with minor conditions can expect to wait longer.

In March, 86.6 per cent of patients were seen within four hours at A&E, the data shows, meaning more than 290,000 waited longer than they should have.

This rose from 84.2 per cent in February, which was the lowest monthly performance recorded in 15 years.

The 95 per cent standard has not been met since July 2015.

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “This has been and continues to be an extremely challenging time for urgent care in the NHS, which has been overlooked amid the chaos of Brexit and the smokescreen it has created. My major imminent concern is that hospitals are working flat out at the moment and we have a looming spell of bank holidays when many support services will not be functioning, heaping up the already relentless pressure.”

NHS England said more than 7 million patients were seen within four hours between December and the end of March, the highest on record and 380,000 more than last year.

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Pauline Philip, national director of emergency and elective care, said: “Throughout the NHS, staff have worked tirelessly to deliver the improvements we’ve seen for patients this winter, putting in place new and improved services, delivering a record number of flu jabs and providing care directly to a record number of people.

“Millions of people in England who have benefited from NHS care and advice this last few months will therefore want to join me in paying thanks to all health service staff for their exceptional efforts.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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