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12-hour patient waits in A&E increase by 10,000% in five years


By Carolyn Wickware
25 September 2017

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The number of patients waiting in A&E for over 12 hours has increased by 10,546% in the last five years, according the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

The analysis found that between January and March this year, 1,597 patients were waiting in A&E for more than 12 hours, compared to just 15 in the same months of 2012.

The data comes from quarterly performance figures release by NHS England last week, which also show an increase in 12-hour waits in the spring months, when pressures traditionally ease.

The number of patients waiting in A&E for over 12 hours has increased by 10,546% in the last five years, according the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

The analysis found that between January and March this year, 1,597 patients were waiting in A&E for more than 12 hours, compared to just 15 in the same months of 2012.

The data comes from quarterly performance figures release by NHS England last week, which also show an increase in 12-hour waits in the spring months, when pressures traditionally ease.

From April to June 2012, just two patients were kept waiting for more than 12 hours, compared with 311 in 2017 – an increase of 15,450%.

The analysis comes after Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridgeshire declared a ‘critical internal incident’ because of a lack of beds earlier this month.

Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said the figures are ‘unacceptable’ for a winter that was ‘mild and without a major outbreak of flu’.

He said: ‘There are indications that the flu vaccine will not be as successful this year and as such we anticipate that conditions will be even more difficult this winter.’

Dr Hassan said 5,000 extra beds will be needed to ‘reduce bed occupancy levels and enable patients to be admitted more swiftly’.

He added: ‘Without extra beds, we will continue to see winter levels of performance all year round and patient care will suffer.’

Dr Chaand Nagpaul BMA council chair said the findings were ‘staggering’.

He said: ‘It’s concerning to see the government is struggling to learn lessons from repeated seasons of poor performance and plan appropriately for a predictable period of greater activity. 
 
‘In the short term, we need to see realistic bed plans focused on patient experiences and high quality care rather than a view to meeting financial targets.

‘But in the long term we need politicians to stop ignoring this impending crisis and provide a sustainable solution to the funding and capacity challenges that are overwhelming the health service.’

The quarterly statistics also reveal that the percentage of A&E attendances admitted to hospital or discharged in the targeted four hours or less fell from 87.9% in 2015/16 to 83.7% in 2016/17 in hospital trusts with major A&E departments.

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