Hospital Dr News

Emergency Departments struggle as much in the summer as recent winters, data suggests

Emergency care services in England are suffering a ‘year-round crisis’ with key indicators demonstrating the summer of 2018 delivered worse levels of care to patients than five out of eight recent winters.

The analysis, by the BMA, is based on an examination of data released each month by NHS England that shows the level of pressure on emergency care services.

In a snapshot of three summer months of 2018 (July to September), 125,215 patients were left waiting on a trolley for more than four hours after the decision to admit, a figure that was greater than every winter (defined as January to March) between 2011 and 2015.

The figures were not far behind the last three winters, which registered increasing numbers of patients stranded on trolleys at 155,277 in 2016, 177,012 in 2017 and a record 226,176 in 2018.

Compliance with the waiting targets for patients to be seen in A&E, also set at four hours, were lower in the summer of 2018 than the winters of 2011 to 2015, with new lows recorded in the last three winters.

In light of these findings, doctors’ leaders have warned the government must ensure extra funding reaches frontline services.

The analysis also shows that the winters are getting worse year-on-year.

According to the figures, 200,000 more patients were left stranded for more than four hours on a trolley waiting for care after being admitted to hospital in the most recent winter period compared to the same time frame in 2011/2012.

When comparing winter 2011 and winter 2018, compliance with the four-hour waiting time to be seen, admitted or discharged from A&E reduced from 96.6% to 85%.

And, total emergency admissions increased from 1,290,056 to 1,529,087, a rise of 19%.

Dr Simon Walsh, an emergency care doctor and member of the BMA’s consultants committee, 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.”

President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Dr Taj Hassan welcomed the analysis, but added: “While the figures in this report paint a bleak picture, it only tells part of the story; the number of beds across the system has declined by nearly 10% in the last 7 years, with occupancy rates now routinely above safe levels.

“This is part of the reason why Emergency Departments are now experiencing winter conditions all year round with little sign of respite, and patients suffering as a result. We are undoubtedly heading into this winter in very precarious position.”

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