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A&E waiting times hit record low again as February becomes the ‘toughest month to date’ for the NHS

The NHS has reported its worst ever performance figures for the second month in a row in the wake of new proposals scrapping the flagship four-hour A&E target, according to the latest NHS statistics.

The “overwhelmed” health service had its “toughest month to date” in February with only 84.2% of A&E visits seen within the NHS’s four-hour waiting time target, dropping from 84.4%.

The figures showed a big increase in demand compared to this time last year, but the NHS hasn’t hit its A&E target since July 2015.

Other statistics revealed that waits for cancer treatment are longer than ever and the NHS missed its target to treat people within two months of a doctor’s referral for the 37th month in a row.

The waiting list for all types of treatment has risen to 4.16 million people, the second highest ever, and more than 220,000 of these people have been waiting for six months or more.

NHS Providers said that on top of the rising A&E pressures, this is also the first time that all three of the key core cancer standards have been missed and the NHS is now missing seven out of nine of its cancer standards.

This comes days after the NHS unveiled plans to overhaul its four-hour A&E target, which requires 95% of patients to be seen within the timeframe, and trial new “rapid care measures.”

The review, led by NHS England’s medical director Stephen Powis, set out proposals for five new accident and emergency targets, including an average time for all patients.

The target was introduced in 2004 and was met by just two hospital trusts last month, and NHS bosses have blamed the model for distorting priorities and encourages gaming by trusts.

NHS Providers’ director of policy Miriam Deakin said: “The figures released today show that February has been a particularly tough month for the NHS with performance against A&E and cancer standards falling to an all-time low.

“It is the first time since all three of the key cancer standards have been missed – two-week referral; 31-day treatment from decision to treat and 62 day from referral to treatment.

“Trusts are clearly continuing to struggle to meet rising demand. A&E is continuing to see unprecedented pressure with a 7% increase in attendances and 6% increase in emergency admissions. Trusts are in the impossible position of having to prioritise those who are most sick and are seeking to manage the knock-on effect this has on cancer and elective care.”



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