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Patients facing longer A&E waits

By Laura Passi

The proportion of patients waiting more than four hours to be seen in A&E has risen since the Government relaxed waiting time targets last year, new figures from the Department of Health show.

In the three months to December 2010, 96.5% of patients in A&E waited four hours or less to be admitted, transferred or discharged - down from 98% in the previous quarter, and 97.8% for the same quarter last year.

The figures will come as a blow to the Government, which scaled back the A&E waiting time target last summer, and has since announced the four-hour target will be scrapped altogether. Last June, the Department of Health reduced the target for the proportion of patients who should be seen within four hours from 98% to 95%. And in December, ministers announced the replacement of the four-hour standard with a set of clinical quality indicators, due to come into effect this April.

Labour's shadow health secretary John Healey said: 'As the Tory-led government forces the NHS through a massive internal reorganisation, the standard of service to patients is getting worse not better. This is now being reflected in cancelled operations and increased waiting times.'

'We are now seeing the consequences of the removal of Labour's waiting time guarantees for patients and the increased pressures being put on the NHS frontline.'

Patients are facing longer waits in A&E Patients are facing longer waits in A&E