Hospital Dr News

A&E performance declines with fears of a long winter ahead for the NHS

The NHS recorded its worst second quarter performance against the 4-hour A&E wait target since since records began, official data reveals.

Furthermore, it missed the planning guidance target – set back in February – for 90% of patients to be seen within four hours by September.

NHS England’s figures show 88.9% of patients were seen within four hours in September.

Commentators are warning that without further investment performance will decline further as winter pressures intensify.

The September performance was worse than the 89.7% in September 2017 – the previous low.

The planning guidance suggested the system should be back at the 95% target during 2019, though that seems unlikely given rising demand.

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “The relentless pressure seen throughout the year is an indication of what is in store this winter.

“The sporadic funding announcements we’ve seen will serve only to help trusts maintain stretched services, not improve capacity and resource to the level it is required.

“That requires long-term planning and investment throughout the NHS and social care and a desire to focus on effective systems and processes as opposed to patchy cash injections which fall well short of the level required to oversee real change.”

The data shows that 153 patients had to wait more than 12 hours from the decision to admit them to admission last month.

There was also further deterioration on the 18-week elective referral to treatment standard, which slumped to 87.2% in August against the 92% target.

The government has promised £20.5bn of funding growth over the next five years – but any additional funding won’t kick in until the Budget next April.

Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The statistics tell two stories: one of ever-rising numbers of patients needing our care, and one of a health service that is stretched to the limit trying to meet demand.

“Sadly, the NHS has not met key performance targets since 2015, whether it is winter, spring, summer, or autumn.

“It is increasingly vital for local health and social care systems to deploy their combined resources in the most effective way possible to meet the pressures of an older and increasingly frail population.”

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