A&E Delays In UK Reach Record Levels

“Please only visit A&E in an absolute emergency during the festive period” ….how many times is this message reeled out and what will it take for us to truly understand this message?



In December 2015 the media headlines again reminded us to only use A&E in an Emergency over the Christmas and New Years period. Some 3 months later the same message is once again being issued to the public – ‘only come to A&E for an acute emergency’.“Please only visit A & E in an absolute emergency during the festive period” So far this year A&E departments have missed their target across the whole of the UK. Monthly performances of A&E departments have not been at this much of a low since 2004.

The target waiting time for patients to be assessed once they have arrived and registered at A&E should meet the expected 95% of all patients to be seen within 4 hours of arrival.  However for January 2016, within England NHS hospitals, only 88.7% of patients were seen within this target time allowance. Within Wales only 77.2% of patients were seen within the targeted time. (www.nhs.uk/choiceintheNHS/)

Further figures show that there has been a 13% increase of A&E cases per month compared with figures recorded in 2015. Data recorded also shows a rise in the public phoning NHS 111 for help and advice. With over 7 million patient’s arriving at A&E needing treatment across the UK between the months of November 2015 and February 2016. (www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35772221)

It has also been noted that there is a significant increase in the delays it takes to discharge patients who are now medically fit to leave hospital. With 160,000 days of delays in January 2016.  This is emphasising the issues already highlighted within the A&E departments.

The NHS is also monitored in other areas – again where they have failed to achieve targets. (www.nhs.uk/choiceintheNHS/)

NHS target NHS response in 2016
Patients to have a maximum of 18 weeks waiting time for a routine operation Target missed for both January and February this year
Cancer patients to start treatment within 62 days of referral from GP Target missed for the 20th time in 21 Months
A maximum of 6 weeks waiting for patients diagnostic tests Target missed – Only 1 in every 2 patients were able to have diagnostic tests within the 6 week time limit
NHS 111 to answer all calls within 60 seconds Target missed
Ambulances to response to critical calls within 8 minutes Target missed for the eight month in a row – every 1 in 3 patients are waiting longer than the time target

One response to try to relieve the NHS and A&E departments of backlog in demand noted within GP reports is that GP’s are now being advised that they are to cut back on hospital referrals, routine operations and treatments outside of A&E. However will this just prolong recovery time and most likely have an overall negative impact on the general recovery success rate of patients? (www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35772221)

At a time when there is high demand and NHS staff are already working long continued hours – leaving shifts exhausted due to the pressure and continuity of their work involved daily, overcrowding within all hospitals and patient recovery time at a high. It is uncertain to predict where the future of the NHS is headed.