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Independents' Day

Record A&E attendances and worst-ever referral waiting times, official data shows

New NHS data has shown record highs of A&E attendances, alongside the worst-ever waiting times for treatment referrals. 

Additionally, there has been a marked increase in operation cancellations and 12-hour trolley waits since last year.

A total of 2,266,913 people attended emergency units in England last month - the highest figure for July since current records began in August 2010, and 4% more than in July 2018.

Out of these, 86.5% were seen within four hours. This is a 0.6% increase from the same period last year, but nonetheless means that the target for 95% of patients to be seen within four hours has been missed for four consecutive years. 

This target was achieved by just four of 119 major A&E departments, and may be a catalyst to NHS England scrapping this target, which could happen in April, according to an interim report on NHS access standards. 

There were also 554,069 emergency admissions in July, an increase of 4.6% since July 2018.

Elsewhere, the number of people waiting for planned hospital treatment exceeded 4.5 million, and the amount of people waiting over 18 weeks to start treatment reached its highest level for over a decade, at 13.7%. Also halted was progress on efforts to reduce the list of people waiting over a year to begin treatment. 

Overall, 57,694 patients spent more than four hours waiting on a trolley, which is 35% higher than in July last year. Similarly, trolley waits this April, May and June were those months' highest since records began. 

The BMA urged the Government to 'realise that behind these figures are patients who are suffering because they do not have timely access to care and staff who are being pushed to their limits, to the detriment of an effectively functioning health service', and further called on political leaders to resolve the pensions crisis. 

Dr Rob Harwood, consultants committee chair at the BMA, added: ‘Today’s figures show the continuing rapid deterioration of performance levels within the health service, as despite being the middle of summer, the NHS is experiencing pressures reminiscent of the worst winters.

‘The situation for patients is extremely concerning with over 4.5 million people waiting for treatment – the highest figure on record – and 12-hour trolley waits tripling compared to this time last year.

‘With 20,000 cancelled operations in the last quarter - up by 6% in the same period last year – June waiting times for cancer treatment and referrals the worst since records began, and July being the busiest month for A&E attendances ever recorded, the NHS is in desperate need of a lifeline.’

Richard Murray, chief executive of The King’s Fund, said: ‘Today’s figures make clear that patients face a long wait to see improvements in care as a result of the NHS funding boost. 

Measures announced by the Government this week to review consultants’ pensions have the potential to reduce some of the operational pressures which are leading to declining performance, but addressing chronic staff shortages in the NHS will require a raft of measures and must be an priority for the new government.’

The sentiment was echoed by the Nuffield Trust, whose chief executive Nigel Edwards commented: ‘The soaring temperatures in July have taken their toll on patients and staff, with a record number of people turning up to A&E last month.

‘The number of people waiting over four hours on trolleys to be admitted was also unusually high for summer at over 57,000 – a figure that would have once been unthinkable, even in the depths of winter.

‘And it’s not just about A&E – sadly these figures show relentless pressure throughout the whole system. More than one in 10 people on the list for planned treatment are now waiting over 18 weeks, the worst level since January 2009, and the key two-month cancer treatment target now hasn’t been met in three and a half years.’

Pulse previously exclusively revealed that a quarter of GPs are finding it more difficult to employ locums due to competition from GP 'streaming' services in A&E departments.

Related images

  • 525x350 accident and emergency a&e rf

Readers' comments (10)

  • The NHS budget (inflation adjusted) has increased by 10 fold since its creation and yet we’re in a crisis year on year.

    The only solution is to think radically.

    Change however is totally unacceptable to the electorate and (most) doctors alike.

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  • £20 to see a GP, and £50 when pitch up at A&E would be a good start. £200 for missed appointment

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  • Money is soaked up ad infinitum by bureaucrats with little/no transferable and zero clinical skills.
    Work is actually done by people with transferable skills, who find pay and conditions in NHS deplorable and so leave for overseas.
    Signed from nice medical Centre in Ontario (UK MBBS 2001)

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  • "Nothing is more expensive than what the government promises for free." Peter Schiff

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  • The system is not sustainable and has to change. Charges need to be brought in.

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  • is not going to be sorted whilst governments have tiny majorities.

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  • Agree money spent on management consultants and non patient facing bureaucrats is a disgrace

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  • And in NI without any government for over three years, the position here is much worse than in GB, and yet....... flags, Irish language, bonfires and marching are all that ignites public opinion here!
    Deteriorating public services don’t even register with the average elector in Northern Ireland
    Our waiting lists are eye wateringly bad and believe it or not folks, they are so much worse than any where else.....
    I despair!

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  • DrRubbishBin

    we clearly need more people 'through put' in general practice, more GP contacts manufacturing more referrals for secondary care, if they too can upgrade their efficiency and process these ever increasing number of referrals the NHS can do more and more work, and with this ever increasing activity we can guarantee ever increasing costs (someone's got to pay for al if this activity)

    the inherent lunacy of the 'ever increasing efficiency' model of tax payer funded heath care

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  • Nobody will be dumb enough to pay to work. All the goodwill is gone due to the abuse NHS staff has received from all angles. The waiting list can rise due to the dumb policies.

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