26th Jun, 2019

Dismay as waiting times grow in A&E departments across the country

Ross Crawford 18th Feb, 2019

‘CONDITIONS in our Emergency Departments for both patients and staff are grave indeed’ – that’s the verdict of the chief executive of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine reflecting on hospital pressures nationwide.

Gordon Miles was speaking in response to data from the Royal College’s Winter Flow Project for the week ending February 3, 2019 which showed average performance of the government’s four-hour A&E waiting time at just 77.98 per cent.

“Regretfully, as has been the case for the duration of this year’s Winter Flow Project, full compliance with the NHS Constitution commitment that at least 95 per cent of patients attending A&E should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours remains a distant prospect,” he said.

“While reporting poor four-hour performance scores have now become quite routine, this does not change the fact that conditions in our Emergency Departments for both patients and staff are grave indeed.

“At 77.98 per cent, performance is 3.14 percentage points lower than was the case in 2017-18 and is the lowest performance figure we have ever recorded in the first week of February.”

His comments come as figures released by legal firm Blackwater Law show Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust’s performance against the four-hour target at just 71 per cent, the fifth worse in the country.

However the Royal College’s figures show that across the country hospitals are struggling under the pressure.

Mr Miles added: “We have reported declines in performance for seven of the last ten weeks.

“This suggests that while the staff in our departments are striving to keep patients safe, those departments are at or beyond the limits of their resilience.

“The reality of this situation is that large numbers of patients are being cared for in undignified conditions in corridors, at greater risk of hospital acquired infections.

“The imperative if departments reach this crisis point, is deploy as many clinical staff as possible to prevent patients coming to avoidable harm.

“What this week’s data shows quite clearly is that the hospitals are doing just that.

“At 723, the number of temporary doctors and nurses on the shop floor is the highest we have ever recorded and a 16.8 per cent increase in the last four weeks alone, itself a testament to the pressure the system is under.”

A spokesperson for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Demand on our hospitals continues to be exceptionally high and staff are working very hard to provide the safest care they can for patients in the face of continuing pressure on beds.

“Despite our best efforts, this does mean that some patients have to wait longer than we would wish to be admitted to a bed.

“We would like to reassure patients that we are working closely with our partners across the health and care system to manage the pressures on our emergency departments.

“Additional beds on two new wards are now in use at both the Alexandra Hospital and Worcestershire Royal Hospital to help us.

“We would continue to appeal to local people to play their part by following advice on choosing their health services wisely.

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