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‘Winter pressures’ now year-round, finds report

Overcrowding hospital 16x9

Emergency care services are stuck in an ‘all-year-round crisis’ after a summer worse than most recent winters.

New analysis from the BMA has shown that staff working in emergency departments faced tougher demand on services and staff this summer than during five of the last eight winters, while funding stagnated and capital investment in buildings and technology was limited.

The figures, outlined in a BMA report released today and based on NHS England data, show that during the three summer months of 2018 (July to September), more than 125,000 patients were stranded on trolleys for more than four hours – a figure greater than every winter, January to March, between 2011 and 2015.

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said the figures showed the long-term underfunding of emergency care services in England was biting hard on the front line during a time when demand on services has rocketed.

He said: ‘It is shocking that the number of patients waiting more than four hours for treatment on trolleys has increased seven-fold during the winter months since 2011, with almost 200,000 more patients left in this appalling situation.

‘Most worryingly, the pressure on the NHS has developed into an all-year crisis. The BMA correctly predicted that the summer of 2018 would be as bad as many recent winters.

The problem extends beyond patients waiting on trolleys.

The study examined recently published NHS England data that shows that for the summer months a smaller proportion of patients – 89.3 per cent – were seen within four hours in A&E than in any of the winters between 2011 and 2015. There were more emergency admissions between July and September than any of the previous winter or summer periods, going back seven years.

London emergency medicine consultant Simon Walsh said: ‘Behind these figures lie real stories of misery. Tens of thousands of patients are being left in crowded, cramped corridors, waiting for treatment while others are having to endure longer waits to even see a doctor or nurse. We cannot and should not allow this appalling state of affairs to continue.

‘The recent budget showed signs that the Government is beginning to understand that extra investment is needed. But this analysis shows the NHS needs this funding urgently. The BMA remains unconvinced that what has been pledged will meet the sheer scale of the problems underlined by our analysis. It is vital that the Government ensures that frontline healthcare staff are given the resources they need to deliver the standard of care that patients deserve.’

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