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Delays rise a hundred-fold

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The number of patients waiting in emergency departments for more than 12 hours for admission has increased a hundred-fold in just five years.

Doctors leaders said the figures, obtained by the RCEM (Royal College of Emergency Medicine), show the extent of the crisis in health and social care.

Despite a relatively mild colder season the number of people left in emergency departments for more than 12 hours rose from just 15 patients during January to March of 2012 to 1,597 in the same months of 2017.

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Earlier this year, the BMA highlighted the dangers of overnight hospital beds in England having dropped by a fifth in the past decade, as the NHS experienced one of its worst-performing winters on record.

‘This analysis paints the reality of an ever deepening crisis in an NHS at breaking point and it is staggering to see the skyrocketing number of patients waiting 12 hours or more on hospital trolleys.

'The UK already has the second-lowest number of hospital beds per person within Europe. This is a result of a severely underfunded health system which is putting increasing pressure on overstretched services unable to meet escalating demands.’

The stark statistics come while doctors and hospital managers prepare for an even harsher winter – with NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens warning that flu outbreaks in Australia and New Zealand suggest the UK will face ‘serious pressures’.

RCEM president Taj Hassan said: ‘The figures show just how bad waiting times have become for patients in the depths of winter.

'Patients should not have to endure such long waits, particularly in colder conditions when frail patients are more vulnerable. This huge increase is unacceptable and shows that despite planning for winter every year, we have consistently failed to do enough. These long waits are due to exit block and a lack of flow in our systems.’

The RCEM has called for 5,000 more hospital beds to be introduced, to allow patients to be admitted more swiftly.

Dr Nagpaul urged the Government to ‘grasp the seriousness of the situation’. He said it needed urgently to consider the funding, capacity and recruitment crisis in the NHS.

At the height of winter in the UK earlier this year the British Red Cross described the situation in the country’s hospitals as a ‘humanitarian crisis’.

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