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Third of patients in A and E wait more than four hours

A survey by the healthcare regulator found waiting times are getting worse in several key areas in England’s Accident and Emergency (A and E) departments.Third of patients in A and E wait more than four hoursOne third of patients said they were in A&E for longer than four hours in total, up from a less than a quarter in 2004, and a third of patients also said they had to wait more than half an hour to be seen by a doctor or nurse, also up from a quarter in 2004.

Patients arriving by ambulance also faced waits with nearly one in four having to stay with the ambulance crew for more than 15 minutes for A&E staff to become available to take over their care, and one in 20 had to wait more than an hour.

The survey of 46,000 patients who have been treated in A&Es in England was conducted by the Care Quality Commission.

The findings do not reflect official waiting time data from the Department of Health which suggests 95 per cent of patients are dealt with inside four hours, meeting the overall target.

Health Minister Lord Howe said: “Everyone should be seen quickly when they arrive at hospital, even more so when they arrive in an ambulance. It is unacceptable for patients to be left waiting in ambulances outside hospitals.

“The NHS needs to ensure it has proper plans in place to deal with high demand and we are doing everything we can to support the service in treating patients as swiftly as it can.”

The research, conducted across 147 NHS trusts with major accident and emergency departments, also found that 59 per cent of people were not told how long they would have to wait to be examined, compared with 56 per cent in 2004.

Almost half of patients who were prescribed medicines said they were not warned about possible side effects.

However, most people said they still had confidence and trust in the health professionals who treated them.

Perceptions of the cleanliness of A&E units have also substantially improved from previous surveys, the CQC said.

The national score for patient satisfaction with A&E services dropped slightly from 75.7 in 2008 to 75.4 in 2012.

The scores dropped in three of the five main areas measured, including access and waiting; safe high quality coordinated care and building relationships.

There was only an improvement in one area, cleanliness, which rose from 81.4 in 2008 to 82.2 in 2012.

David Behan, CQC chief executive, said: “The important issue is that people who need to be treated urgently do not have to wait. It is disappointing therefore that people have said they have to wait longer to be treated than four years ago.

“People should be seen, diagnosed, treated and admitted or discharged as quickly as possible and this is an issue that trusts need to urgently tackle.

“It is however encouraging to see people’s perceptions of trust in clinicians and cleanliness continuing to be high and more people than ever saying that they have enough privacy when discussing conditions with receptionists.”

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