NHS crisis: A&E waiting times hit worst level on record

2,000 accident and emergency patients waited more than 12 hours for a bed in December

Tom Barnes
Thursday 09 January 2020 11:26 GMT
Last month also saw ambulances attend nearly 800,000 incidents – making it the busiest month ever
Last month also saw ambulances attend nearly 800,000 incidents – making it the busiest month ever

A&E waiting times hit their worst-ever level in December amid growing pressures on the NHS, figures show.

One in five who attended an accident and emergency unit last month were forced to wait more than four hours, the time the government aims for 95 per cent of patients to be seen in.

Of those, more than 2,000 people waited over 12 hours for a hospital bed, a huge rise on the 284 who endured similar wait times in December 2018.

NHS England figures released on Thursday showed there were 2,181,024 A&E attendances in December – a 6.5 per cent rise on the same time the previous year.

This resulted in 4,307 extra attendances per day – the highest number on record – leaving NHS staff dealing with an unprecedented demand for emergency care.

Dr Rinesh Parmar, chair of the Doctors’ Association UK, which campaigns for improved working conditions for doctors, warned the latest figures came as a “direct result of years of underfunding”.

He said: “These figures, the worst on record, will sadly not come as a surprise to frontline doctors, who are working themselves into the ground to keep patients safe this winter.

“Poor morale and spiralling workloads have contributed to a staffing crisis in emergency medicine with A&E doctors showing the highest level of burnout across all specialities.

“Doctors and our nursing colleagues are doing their utmost under very trying circumstances and it is the government who must be held to account for these latest performance figures.”

Ambulances attended 790,294 incidents in December, which also made it the busiest month on record – with a 5.3 per cent increase from the same month the previous year.

Some 10,000 of these call-outs were to the most serious, life-threatening cases – again the highest number was recorded in a month, with a rise of 16.6 per cent from the previous year.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “A&Es across the country are currently very busy – in 2019 we treated over a million more patients in our A&Es than the previous year.

“We have got more hospital beds open than last winter, but flu has come early and is around twice as high as this time last year.

“The continued increase in people’s need for care underlines the need for more beds and staff across hospital and community services, which is why the government’s commitment to increase the number of nurses by 50,000 and invest in new and expanded facilities will be crucial over the coming years.”

The government has previously pledged to deliver “50,000 more nurses” for the health service.

However, Boris Johnson admitted during last month’s general election campaign that only 31,000 would be new recruits – the figure includes 18,500 existing nurses who would be encouraged to remain in their jobs.

Additional reporting by PA

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