Concern Expressed Over NHS Waiting Times

A number of organisations have expressed concern over the NHS’s performance, particularly at waiting times for patients arriving at A&E departments.

In December 2019, the NHS saw 560,801 emergency admissions. This was 2.9% more than the figure reported in December 2018.

Some 98,452 patients (17.6%) waited more than four hours to be admitted, while 2,347 waited more than 12 hours for admission.

Meanwhile, 81,012 patients in England have had to stay with ambulance staff for at least half an hour due to delays getting into an A&E department since winter began.

The NHS “is struggling”

President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) Dr Katherine Henderson said: “The NHS is struggling to escape its spiral of decline. With a record low in terms of four-hour performance and highest ever number of 12-hour waits, this will have been a miserable Christmas period for many patients and staff alike.”

The RCEM said NHS England’s Situation Report showed that in December 2019, 93.3% of general and acute beds were occupied.

Dr Henderson said: “Compared to December 2018, the number of patients waiting for over 12-hours has increased by over 700%. This is from the decision to admit – the actual figure from time of arrival will be much, much higher. This is terrible for patients and puts lives at risk.”

She went on to say that many existing A&E departments are too small, run down and need of repair. She explained that the NHS does not have the necessary space for patients who are kept waiting, adding that many patients will be tested using equipment that has “either seen better days or that we have too little of”.

According to Dr Henderson, the UK has the lowest level of both CT and MRI scanners per capita in comparable nations.

A “new low point”

Meanwhile, Richard Murray, chief executive of health think tank The King’s Fund said that performance against the four-hour target in major A&E units has reached “a new low point”.

He explained that there has also been “a stark jump” in the number of people who are left waiting for a very long time on a trolley before being admitted to hospital.

The number of people waiting more than 12 hours after it has been decided they should be admitted has more than doubled since November 2019, reaching over 2,300. This is more than eight times higher than the number reported last year.

In December 2019, the highest ever number of ambulance responses to emergency calls was recorded. There was also the highest number of emergency admissions to hospital recorded, showing that the NHS is experiencing the highest demand for its services since records began.

Murray highlighted the need for more NHS beds. However, he said that if the UK is to open more, “we will need additional nurses and doctors to staff them and the NHS is currently in the grips of a major workforce crisis”.

He called on the government to deliver “a credible plan to increase the workforce and urgent reform of social care”.

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