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14.07.17

Six-month waits for treatment soar as NHS performance slips further

A&E performance is continuing to slide, as data released this week by NHS England revealed that targets were still not being met.

In figures for May, it was reported that 89.7% of patients in emergency wards were seen within four hours, a decline from April, where the figure was 90.5% and for the same month in 2016 when it was 90.3%.

On top of that, only 84.6% of type 1 A&E units hit the four-hour target compared to 85.4% the previous May, and 85.7% in April.

The 18-week target for planned care was missed, although performance in this area did see improvement in May compared to April.

However, this was counteracted by the fact that the amount of people waiting more than six months for treatment in May went up drastically by 4.7% compared to April – up to 142,416 people. Shockingly, this figure is a jump of 185.8% compared to May 2016 when only 49,834 patients were waiting longer than six months.

Ian Eardley, vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), said that the performance data released today represented a “mixed picture”.

“On the positive side, the deterioration in performance against the 18-week target has slowed slightly and delayed discharges from hospital seem to be reducing compared with other recent months,” he argued.

“However, the number of patients waiting more than six months for treatment has increased dramatically even in just the last month.

“We have warned this could be a consequence of deprioritising the 18-week target and it will not have been helped by decisions over winter to delay planned surgery to help prioritise emergency patients.”

Eardley added it was “disappointing” that A&E performance is worsening even though this is now a higher priority for NHS England and the government.

“The NHS needs to better understand why this has happened and whether recently announced measures are sufficient,” he added. “Patients in the NHS can continue to expect good quality treatment but today’s data underlines the challenge currently facing us to improve timely access to surgery and other treatment.”

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