latest health care news

22.12.16

Record numbers of patients now leaving A&E without being treated

A&Es are now under so much pressure that more and more patients are going home without waiting for treatment.

According to the latest figures from NHS Digital, more than 50,000 people left English A&Es in September 2016 without receiving treatment, an increase of almost a quarter compared to the same month the year before.

Prof John Appleby, chief economist and director of research at the Nuffield Trust, said: “These figures paint a picture of an NHS under severe pressure, which will put staff under great strain over the winter period and could put patients at risk.

“The NHS has managed in previous years by opening extra beds, deploying more staff and reducing the numbers of non-urgent operations. We expect to see the same this year, but the question for this winter is whether there will be enough slack in the system to deal with a sudden outbreak of flu or norovirus.”

The latest NHS Digital figures also show that in the past year, the time it has taken for a patient to start treatment has risen from 55 minutes to 59, while the total length of an A&E stay increased from 5 hours and 53 minutes to six-and-a-half hours.

Furthermore, 137,000 patients, 8.1% of the total, made an unplanned return to A&E within a week, raising fears that emergency departments are so rushed that they are failing to properly treat patients the first time.

Recent figures from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine revealed that in over 50 trusts just 78.68% of patients are being admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, an unprecedented drop from the 95% performance target.

In November, the Health Select Committee warned that the already stretched NHS could face unprecedented pressures this winter. And leaked documents revealed NHS England and NHS Improvement have urged trusts to use private services if necessary to keep their acute bed occupancy under the safety limit of 85%.

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