A&E waiting times below standard “massively worrying” data shows

A senior NHS doctor warned of a dangerous lack of staffed hospital beds this month, as data revealed A&E processing times worsening since May.

The time patients waited for an admission during October, known as a ‘trolley wait’, fell below the national standard, according to NHS figures.

Royal College of Emergency Medicine President Dr Katherine Henderson said: “The data is massively worrying.”

Major A&E departments are missing the four hour standard

At 84% nationally, October A&E attendances processed in four hours or less fell below the 95% national standard.

This value fell 3% from September 2020 and is 5% lower than October 2019.

Type 1 Major A&E departments failed to meet the national standard as they processed 78% of attendances in under four hours in October.

Whereas other A&E types on average processed more than 98% of admissions in under four hours in October.

Source: NHS England

However, London had the second lowest percentage of October attendances lasting more than four hours in English regions at 10%, half of the north west’s 20%. 

Source: NHS England

Twelve hour waits increase

Twelve hour waits have become more common month-by-month since June.

And one in every 1,642 patients admitted to or attending A&E nationally spent more than 12 hours from decision to admission in October, the worst rate since February.

This national rate increased by 75% from September, as admissions and attendance decreased by 4% but patients spending more than 12 hours from decision to admission increased by 380%.

Source: NHS England
Source: NHS England
Source: NHS England

The patient outlook

Dr Henderson said she is “appalled and alarmed” at the data and warned that a lack of staffed beds is leaving patients stranded in emergency departments, putting them at risk. 

She added: “It is a dangerous and unsafe situation that puts enormous pressure on staff and departments and now increases the risk of hospital acquired infection to patients. 

“Hospitals need to be given guidance about how to prioritise the multiple demands they are trying to balance.

“Winter has only just begun and with the rise in community covid transmission it is only likely to get worse.”

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