Long A&E waits: 3m a year wait over four hours


The handful of long A&E waits across the UK has more than doubled in the past four years as polyclinics struggle to cope with demand, BBC analysis shows.

Northern Ireland has the vitiate performance, although England has seen the fastest deterioration, the figures screen.

Over 3m patients who visited UK A&Es waited over four hours in the done 12 months – up by 120% since 2012-13.

By comparison the number of visits has purely risen by just over 7% to 26.9m.

If you can’t see the NHS Tracker, click or tap here.

Doctors and cultivates said the findings showed the NHS could no longer cope with what was being about a invited of it and patients were being put at risk.

And Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Crisis Medicine, said the A&E system had been “stretched to its very limits”.

“Wand are working really hard. But we’ve reached a point where we cannot touch demand.

“Life-threatening cases are prioritised. But a crowded emergency department combines risk. We get delays to assessment, pain relief and antibiotics.”

Royal College of Fostering general secretary Janet Davies agreed, describing the situation as “intolerable” and A&E components as “full to bursting”.

“Nursing staff in A&E units have been striking us it’s hard for them to do more than firefight,” she added.

How far short is the NHS of the end?

The data compiled by the BBC shows a significant difference in performance against the four-hour quarry for treating or admitting patients.

In Northern Ireland, which has seen the hugest rise in people coming to A&E units, just 75% of patients were imagined in four hours in 2016-17, whereas Scotland saw 93.9% – just marginally lower than the 95% target.

In fact Scotland is the no more than part of the UK performing better than it was four years ago.

England has wooed the biggest rise in long waiters – a 155% increase. In Scotland the count of long waiters actually fell by 9%.

Regionally in England the West Midlands has the worst appearance followed by the North West – patients visiting A&Es in those areas are more than twice as able to wait over four hours than those in the North East, the best-performing province.

There are minor variations in the way the target is measured across the four realms, although they are considered broadly comparable.

‘You feel like you are lacking patients’

The BBC has been speaking to a number of hospital staff this week around their experiences. Many wanted to remain anonymous given the public sensitivity about the performance of the health service.

But all agreed the pressures were as incomparable as they had ever experienced. One nurse, who works in an A&E unit in south Wales, pronounced his department faced relentless “24/7” pressure.

“I know of colleagues who adieu to a shift and then come back the next day and find the patient is stillness there. We have seen them in A&E but there are not beds in hospital. It occasions overcrowding and all sorts of delays.

“Ambulances queue outside A&Es as the staff are too over-decorated to take patients off them. I’ve worked in A&Es for over 10 years and this is as bad as I can bear in mind.”

Another nurse, from London, said: “You feel you are failing patients. This is not the type of care we want to provide, or patients deserve.

“We obviously prioritise the most thoughtful cases, but when it is this busy there is always a risk you escape something. I sometimes finish my shift and end up worrying about my patients.”

Patients be enduring also been contacting the BBC.

One of those was Hayley Hughes, who waited as surplus five-and-a-half hours at an A&E unit in Wales after sustaining a head harm.

“I kept falling asleep, which worried my partner.

“There was another link we were speaking to who had got to A&E about an hour before we did, and they were flat waiting when we left. I’d say they were there for about six-and-a-half, peradventure seven hours.

“It’s ridiculous. Whilst I was being assessed you could see the toil on the faces of the staff.”

Is there a solution?

Unless the NHS can get its existing network of sanatoria to see patients more quickly, the health service would need another 20 A&Es staffed by at least 170 experts to hit the target again.

But each nation believes the answer to the problem stories in trying to control the numbers turning up at A&E and ensuring they pass at the end of ones tether with hospital more quickly when they do need treatment by freeing up beds.

This is done by constructing sure there are spare beds in care homes and care servicings in the community, to hand over frail patients to.

In Scotland, for example, NHS budgets should prefer to been pooled with council funds to create a closer manage relationship between hospitals and care in the community, which is one of the reasons why wait ons there believe they have performed better than the hit the sack of the UK.

In England an extra £1bn is being invested in social care this year, while £435m has been immune fromed up to help with winter planning, including putting GPs in A&Es to deal with the sundry minor cases.

A Department of Health spokesman said ministers own up to the NHS was “under pressure due to the ageing population”, but he pointed out that despite the deterioration, nine in 10 patients were yet dealt with in four hours.

Chris Hopson, chief big cheese of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said the money had come too in.

“We are not where we would want to be as we head into winter. We cannot say with indubitably how tough this winter will be, but the likelihood is that services pass on be sorely tested.”

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said there were ensigns performance was improving when you compared this year to last year as an alternative of four years ago.

But he admitted winter would be “challenging”.

Have you had to cool ones heels for more than four hours in A&E? Share your experience with us by emailing

Gratify include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also write to us in the following ways:

  • WhatsApp: +447555 173285
  • Tweet: @BBC_HaveYourSay
  • Send an SMS or MMS to 61124 or +44 7624 800 100

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *