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Over 20,000 deaths in England due to A&E delays

View profile for Carla Duprey
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Is this the end of the four hour A&E target in England??

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) have recently analysed the figures for A & E departments and have reported that one patient is dying every 23 minutes in England due to long delays. This statistic is based upon their analysis that 23,003 people died in 2022 after spending at least 12 hours in an A & E department waiting for care or to be admitted.

RCEM also reported that 1.66 million people were left waiting in A & E departments for more than 12 hours in 2022.

Everyone will be aware of how overwhelmed A & E departments are at the moment. There have been numerous stories about people waiting a long time for treatment and this is also impacting upon other services. It was recently reported that ambulances and paramedics were queueing up outside of A & E departments whilst they waited for patients to even be admitted. This then has a knock-on effect of less ambulances and paramedics being available to respond to 999 calls.

The A & E departments are also being affected by the lack of available beds in hospitals, which is, amongst other factors, as a result of patients being unable to be safely discharged as appropriate social care measures cannot be put in place.

It is a devastating chain of a lack of resources and ultimately patients’ safety is being compromised. RCEM’s president has confirmed that hospitals need more staff, more beds and more space if they are to get back to treating and admitting patients more quickly. He believes that the proposed NHS workforce plan and action to improve social care may help to achieve these objectives.

NHS England dispute the RCEM’s findings and have stated, ‘The data highlighted looks at time in A&E rather than waits and covers a year when the NHS experienced four record-breaking months for attendances in A&E’. They also stated, ‘The recently published UEC Recovery Plan sets out targets to achieve a four-hour performance of 76% by March 2024, and publish accurate 12-hour waits from time of arrival’.

Irrespective of what the correct statistics are, it is evident that NHS services generally are overstretched and that this is having a major impact upon patients, their safety and mortality. Let’s hope the UEC Recovery Plan (and other proposals) do help to improve matters, but some would suggest that the whole system requires an overhaul if it is to work effectively.

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