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Waits for A&E are rising

31st May 2012

New analysis of waiting times in A&E units in England has suggested they are rising significantly.

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A report from the King’s Fund has shown they are at the highest level for seven years with figures revealing that 4.2% of patients waited longer than four hours from January to March, compared with 3.4% in the same period last year.

Under government guidelines, up to 5% of the 21 million patients who visit A&E units each year wait longer than four hours as part of a process to allow doctors the freedom to prioritise those patients in most urgent need of treatment.

The current figures are still within the target, though the King’s Fund said the rise indicated that hospitals are beginning to struggle at a time when funding is being squeezed and the latest findings would be a concern to ministers.

Mike Clancy, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, said: “The A&E waiting times are a reflection of how the whole system is working.

“The pressure on beds is increasing and this in part may account for the increasing reporting of overcrowding of departments.”

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the report was highly embarrassing for a prime minister who said A&E waits would be one of the tests of his NHS re-organisation.

But Health Secretary Andrew Lansley hit back at the report and said the King’s Fund was wrong to suggest it was a growing problem as the government had given hospitals greater flexibility over how quickly they treat patients.

 

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