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Official data reveals majority of A&E attendances are ‘within working hours’

The majority of A&E attendances are still ‘within working hours’, official statistics have shown, despite the Government’s claim that the lack of GP out-of-hours care is the main reason for the rise of attendance figures.

According to the data, released today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre in a bid to ‘inform current debate’, the number of patients attending A&E has increased year-on-year but the pattern of their arrival times has remained largely unchanged, with about three in five attendances during working hours.

This comes as GP leaders are embroiled in a debate with health secretary Jeremy Hunt over his claim that the reason for the increase in A&E figures is because of the lack of GP out-of-hours provision

The HSCIC looked at data for the 11 months running up to February 2013, comparing it with existing data from the five-year period since 2007/08. During the 11 months running up to February, 58.5% patients (9.8 out of 16.8 million) arrived between 9am and 6pm, coming against only a marginal variation of the figure between 56.8% and 58.5% of patients over the period between 2007/08 to 2011/12.

The most deprived 10% of society accounted for more than double the number of attendances (14.4%, or 2.4 million) compared with the least deprived 10% (6.7%, or 1.1 million). This compared with 15.7% and 6.4% respectively in 2007/08.

The statistics also showed that there has been a steady increase in the number of patients discharged from A&E who required a GP follow-up, from 17% in 2007/08 to a current rate of 20%.

HSCIC chair Kingsley Manning said: ‘As the authoritative and trusted source of national health and social care information, the HSCIC is providing this timely and robust analysis to inform current debate.

‘The potential impact of changes in primary care provision to A&E departments in England is high on the present public agenda. We are able to offer a detailed picture of A&E activity over a number of years, shedding light on a key policy discussion and helping ensure it is grounded in evidence.’

The news comes as the 2011/12 patient survey data, unveiled yesterday, showed that 70% of patients said out-of-hours services were ‘good’.

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Jeremy Hunt is picking the wrong fight with the wrong part of the NHS.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘Regardless of when they show up to A&E, patients should expect a high quality and timely service – and since the end of April over 95% of patients have been seen within four hours as they were before last winter. This is testament to the hard work of staff working throughout the health and care system.’

‘But we know that more work needs to be done to make sure that patients have access to the urgent and emergency services that they need. That is why NHS England has freed up money to help hospitals with immediate pressures and Professor Sir Bruce Keogh is leading a review to look at the demands on services and how the NHS should respond.’