Extreme pressure on NHS leads to A&E wait times reaching record high

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Last month there were record-long delays in A&E departments around England, new data has revealed.

One in five patients requiring emergency care had to wait over the target four hours to be seen, whilst almost 100,000 of the most unwell patients had to spend over four hours lying on trolleys in corridors, due to a shortage of beds. Despite a target of 95%, only 79.8% of those needing care were seen in under four hours. Three trusts – Norfolk and Norwich, Stockport and Hull – failed to reach 60% in December.

The struggle has also been felt by ambulance services, with one in six ambulance crews having to wait over 30 minutes to drop off a patient at A&E.

Hospitals are urgently taking actions to ease the pressure by recruiting more staff and opening more beds, however in the meantime many routine operations have been postponed and in some cases, ambulances have had to have been re-routed to other A&E departments.

What is causing these problems?

Despite the NHS budget increasing by 3.5% this year, December was one of the most challenging months on record for the health service. There were many more cases of the flu in older patients and children than usual, whilst the number of beds having to be closed to contain outbreaks increased by more than 60% from 2018.

Michele Benjamin, a chartered legal executive lawyer in the medical negligence team at Ashtons Legal, comments: “It is absolutely astonishing that patients around the country are facing such delays in hospital A&E departments. There needs to be more of an attempt towards focusing on the prevention of certain illnesses through healthy diet and vaccinations as well as there being a need for the NHS to reduce the number of bed reductions and staff shortages within hospitals. It is clear that despite there being more money thrown into the NHS budget, they are still a long way off from sufficiently making well needed positive changes to A&E departments.”


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