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Emergency waiting times worst since records began

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Politicians can ‘no longer ignore the desperate situation’ in the NHS, doctors leaders have warned, after new figures for waiting times in emergency medicine departments were the worst since records began.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens had warned that the health service was under more pressure than ever in its 70-year history last week and the statistics back up his concerns – with just 76.9 per cent of patients being seen within the four-hour target.

The latest statistics, published monthly, also showed that attendances had increased year on year by 84,500, and emergency admissions to hospital were up by 29,100.

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘These figures show winter pressures are far from over and patients are continuing to be routinely failed – performance against the four-hour waiting targets are the lowest since records began.

‘Data for February also shows that bed occupancy averaged out at 95 per cent, well above the limits considered to be safe, and the number of patients waiting on trolleys is the largest year-to-year increase this winter.’

Dr Nagpaul added: ‘The statistics show that staff and patients have just endured the most challenging winter in the NHS on record and politicians can no longer ignore this desperate situation. We urgently need the Government to provide investment that would deliver the extra beds, staff and services the NHS clearly needs.’

The statistics also show 68,707 occurrences of patients waiting for more than four hours on trolleys – an increase of 14,216 from last year.

The proportion of patients beginning treatment within 18 weeks is currently at 88.2 per cent, which is the worst figure since March 2009.


A pattern emerges

It is a picture captured by the BMA in a series of interviews and submissions from doctors across the country – and published in a special edition BMA News last month.

The BMA also publishes a monthly analysis of NHS statistics on its website to ensure members have access the most up to date figures.

NHS Confederation chair Niall Dickson said the figures were the result of a ‘harsh winter and chronic underfunding’.

He added: ‘Of course, the weather has been extreme with a marked increase in patients when compared with this time last year. But, even with all the extra planning, patients are too often being let down.

‘We are sorry to have to say this yet again but politicians must wake up to the reality of what is happening on the ground.’

It comes during the same week that the King’s Fund published its latest quarterly monitoring report – which revealed longer waiting times for patients across the NHS.

King’s Fund policy director Richard Murray said: 'Our latest quarterly monitoring report underlines the heroic efforts of NHS staff to keep care standards high in the face of unprecedented pressure on services.’

The Labour Party has also published research looking at the difficulties facing the acute sector. Its figures – which came from Freedom of Information Requests – revealed that in 13 trusts patients were left to wait more than 24 hours before being admitted.

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