NHS A&E has worst week in 2014

Pressures in England’s NHS A&E units have hit record levels- with the lowest percentage of patients seen within four hours since monitoring began.

NHS A&E has worst week in 2014New data showed just under 90% of patients were seen within four hours in the seven days up to December 14. Major units particularly struggled, with just six out of 140 meeting the target to see 95% within four hours.

As England is the only part of the UK that produces weekly data, how the NHS is performing here gives the best indication of the pressure the system is under.

Just over 440,000 patients visited A&E in the week ending 14 December with 89.8% seen within four hours.

As well as posting the worst performance against the four-hour target, other measures also show the service is under strain.

There were over 111,000 emergency admissions to hospital – 80,000 from A&E units – which is an all-time high.

Trolley waits – that is waits of four hours or more for a bed once a decision to admit a patient into hospital from A&E is made – topped 10,000 for the first time which compares to under 4,000 for the same week last year.

Delays getting patients out of hospital once they are ready for discharge are also much higher than average.

Performance in England has hit an all time low since weekly monitoring began in 2010, but this looks like it will just be the start of what promises to be the most difficult winter for the NHS for a generation.

The four hour target was introduced in 2004 to combat the long waits patients faced for treatment, since then hospitals have performed remarkably well.

During winter months it has tended to dip below the target level, but not for long. The scale of the drop is causing concern not only to the health service, but to the government too with an election just around the corner.

As health is devolved, data is published differently across the UK.

While England publishes weekly data, the others release it monthly or quarterly. In Wales the data from November shows just 83.8% of patients were seen in time.

Northern Ireland is performing even worse – just over 80% of patients were seen within four hours in November. Scotland has a slightly tougher waiting time target – 98% of patients should be seen in four hours – but in September 93.5% were.

Comparing the September figures for England and Scotland shows England was performing slightly better in that month.

It means according to latest data all parts of the UK are missing the A&E waiting time target.

Each nation has set aside extra money for winter pressures:.

  • In England an extra £700m has been set aside to help the NHS. This is paying for the equivalent of 1,000 extra doctors, 2,000 nurses and 2,000 community staff, including social workers and physios.
  • Ministers in Scotland have announced a total of £28.2m for the NHS to increase capacity and improve the way patients are discharged during winter.
  • In Wales the NHS has been given an extra £200m for this year. The money is for the whole health service, but ministers say it will help relieve the pressures in the coming months.
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