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NHS accident and emergency services in crisis

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Is this the end of the four hour A&E target in England??

The increasing problems suffered by the NHS have been well-publicised this New Year with the Red Cross going as far to say that the NHS was suffering a “humanitarian crisis”. The Government has made every effort to play this down, however, concede that more needs to be done to assist an NHS in crisis.

Particular attention has been paid to Accident and Emergency Departments and waiting times. The latest annual data from NHS Digital shows that 20 million people were treated in an Accident and Emergency Department in 2015-16, 900,000 more than the year before.

In addition, more people are waiting longer revealing the real need for further investment in staff and resources. Statistics have revealed that over 2 million patients were not dealt with within the 4 hour time target set by the Government.

The Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt, has been criticised for appearing to water down the Government’s dedication to the 4 hour waiting time target. He told MPs: “…if we are to protect our four-hour standard, we need to be clear it is a promise to sort out all urgent health problems within four hours, but not all health problems, however minor”. These comments were made in light of NHS England figures that 30% of people attending Accident and Emergency do not need to be there.

It is correct that the Government and the NHS need to continue to stress to the public that Accident and Emergency Departments should only be used in the most serious and life-threatening situations. However, we have all seen the news this week showing pictures of admitted patients waiting for treatment in corridors. This casts doubt on the argument that the lack of NHS resources can be blamed on those who attend unnecessarily.