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Waiting times at major A&E departments at worst ever level

10 February 2018

John Appleby, chief economist of the Nuffield Trust health research group, said: "Today's figures provide hard evidence on just how bad a winter the NHS is having".

Performance statistics due to be published this morning will reveal how hospitals have struggled to cope with a surge in patients.

NHS England figures show just 85.3% of patients were seen in A&E departments within the waiting-time target of four hours last month.

The latest stats show there was a slight improvement on A&E waiting times in Kent last month, with 78% being seen within four hours - up from 73% in December.

Hospitals were permitted to cancel all elective surgery in January to free up bed space and staff, but operations have resumed this month. A record 1,043 waited more than 12 hours - more than double the previous month and an event which hospitals were told to ensure never happened this winter.

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Bed occupancy is running at around 95%, well ahead of the safe guideline of 85%.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust rated the lowest with only 66% of patients seen within four hours, and the highest number of patients to have to wait over twelve hours to be seen were 272 at the University Hospitals Of North Midlands NHS Trust. "I apologise to patients when we haven't delivered the care that we should".

"We will always be striving for that 95% target because it is an important measure of quality".

A&E at Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham in January.

Almost 7000 patients were seen within four hours or less out of a total of 7,500 people who attended the Bournemouth's A&E department.

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Ruth Thorlby, assistant director of policy at the Health Foundation, said: 'Today's performance figures show that health and social care services are under sustained and intense strain this winter.

There is consensus among think tanks and politicians on all sides, including the Conservative chair of the Health Select committee, Sarah Wollaston, that the NHS needs at least £4bn a year more to keep up with demand, a figure backed by NHS England's chief executive Simon Stevens.

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: "Last year we coined the phrase "eternal winter", but the last month and a half has shown an even steeper decline as demonstrated by all the data available - particularly around the four-hour emergency target". Neither of these were unpredictable, but both have combined to cause the issues that have been widely reported across the country.

'We now do not have adequate funding or capacity in our health or social care services and we need to urgently find a long-term solution'.

"These pressures are a symptom of a far more long-term problem - we need proper investment in both the NHS and social care in order to treat patients quickly and safely all year round".

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It comes after last month's accident and emergency waiting time targets had the second lowest result on record.

Waiting times at major A&E departments at worst ever level