A&E waiting times soar as treatment waiting lists reach record-high

13 December 2019, 14:11

Ambulances outside St Thomas' Hospital A&E
Ambulances outside St Thomas' Hospital A&E. Picture: PA

By Megan White

A&E waiting times have soared to their highest ever level as the number of people waiting for treatment reached a record high.

Just 81.4 per cent of accident and emergency patients were seen within four hours in November - the worst figure on record and set against a target of 95 per cent.

The number of patients waiting more than 12 hours shot up by over 330 per cent, from 258 in November 2018 to 1,112 this year.

There were 88,923 patients waiting more than four hours from a decision to admit to hospital admission, 64 per cent higher than the same month last year when it was 54,373.

Data from NHS England also revealed the number of people waiting for treatment, such as knee and hip replacements, was also at its highest-ever level - 4.45 million - in October.

Targets on how long people should wait for cancer treatment also continue to be missed, the figures show.

Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said: "Returning to Downing Street, Boris Johnson has been met by an immediate reminder of the grim winter his Government faces in the English NHS.

"The November figures show the number of patients waiting on trolleys is at its highest level ever, a very worrying sign with the coldest months still to come.

"For the first time, not one single major A&E department in England met the current four-hour waiting time target.

"Figures for the first week of December suggest what may be driving this, showing bed occupancy at 95 per cent, a level which will make it near impossible to admit many patients in need on to the right ward.

"To tackle this, the new government really will need to deliver the 50,000 nurses promised - even if this means more reliance on migrants than they've said."

Dr Rebecca Fisher, a GP and senior policy fellow at the Health Foundation, said: "Without more money and more staff, it will be challenging for the NHS to reverse the current deterioration.

"Our analysis shows that the NHS will need an increase of £20 billion by 2023-24 just to maintain standards of care but more will be needed to improve services.

"The £18 billion extra promised by the Conservatives during the election campaign falls short of what is needed."

An NHS spokesman said: "These figures show that NHS teams across the country are providing a record-breaking level of care to the increasing numbers of people, at a time when norovirus and flu is having a greater impact on local services than last year.

"That's why it's more important than ever for the public to help NHS staff by getting flu jabs, following advice on the NHS website if they have norovirus, using the NHS 111 phone or online service for advice on urgent medical needs, and consulting their local pharmacist for advice on minor ailments."