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27.11.15

A&E waiting times worsening on run up to winter – RCEM

Waiting times in A&E departments across the country are worsening as winter pressures are starting to grow in hospitals, according to figures collected by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM)

Following the winter chaos of 2014-15, a number of trusts/boards approached the college highlighting that the greatest challenge to the four hour standard had been issues of bed availability exacerbated by increased delays in transfers of care. 

Since early October, 40 trusts have has submitted weekly data on attendances, four hour standard performance, delayed transfers of care and cancelled elective operations. 

The data has revealed that over the last seven weeks, 88% of A&E patients were treated or admitted within four hours – well below the 95% target. 

In some places, around a fifth of hospital beds are occupied by patients who cannot leave - so-called “bed blockers” - because there is not the right support in the community for them. 

Dr Cliff Mann, president of the RCEM, said the majority of hospitals have endeavoured to increase the number of beds available to cope. 

“Despite this, elective operations have had to be cancelled and postponed as bed capacity is insufficient to cope,” he said. 

A total of over 6,300 elective operations have been cancelled over the 7 week period by the 40 trusts. As an overall average each site cancelled 21 operations per week over the period. 

NHE reported earlier this year that the NHS was to continue reporting statistics on the four-hour A&E standards, but monthly rather than weekly in a major reporting standardisation at NHS England

Sir Bruce Keogh, the organisation’s national medical director, had recommended standardising reporting arrangements so that performance statistics for A&E, RTT, cancer, diagnostics, ambulances, 111 and delayed transfers of care were all published on one day each month. 

In response to the latest RCEM figures, an NHS England spokeswoman said the figures underline both the importance of joined-up care within the NHS, and hospitals' clear dependence on well-functioning social care services – particularly for older people living at home.

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