Hospital Dr News

NHS targets: system doesn’t have resources or staff to cope with demand

The NHS delivered its worst performance on A&E waiting times in December since the target was introduced in 2004.

Emergency departments only managed to treat and then admit, transfer or discharge 68.6% of arrivals within four hours.

Hospitals are meant to deal with 95% of patients in that four-hour timeframe.

BMA emergency medicine lead Dr Simon Walsh said the figures were “truly alarming”.

He said: “Our NHS simply doesn’t have the resources, staff, or capacity to cope with rocketing demand.

“Emergency departments suffered their worst month on record in December, with more patients than ever before facing long delays to admission. These are sick patients, often left in cramped hospital corridors, until a bed is available.

“This is totally unacceptable and demands urgent action.”

In all, the performance data reveals that 98,452 patients also spent at least four hours on a trolley in an A&E as they waited for hospital staff to find them a bed.

The 2,347 of those who waited at least 12 hours on a trolley was a new record and eight times the 284 who did so in December 2018.

Nuffield Trust Chief Economist Professor John Appleby said: “Once a rare and almost unthinkable event, in December over two thousand people waited more than 12 hours on a trolley to be admitted to a bed on a hospital ward.

“Missed targets are now the norm with more than one in five people attending A&E waiting longer than four hours to be admitted to hospital, transferred or discharged home.

“The Government has started to put in a lot of extra money for the NHS from last April, but this shows just how long it is going to take for it to be felt by patients and staff.”

The performance statistics also showed that:

  • In November, 17,500 people with suspected cancer did not get to see a specialist for the first time within two weeks of being referred by their GP.
  • Over 3,000 patients with cancer did not have “urgent” treatment within two months.
  • The number of people waiting for a nonurgent procedure in hospital such as a new hip or knee or cataract removal remains unchanged at 4.5 million. However, one in six people have already waited more than the supposed maximum of 18 weeks – the highest percentage since 2008.
  • In November, 4,863 hospital beds a day were occupied by people who were fit to be discharged but had not left, slightly fewer than the month before.
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