700,000 will wait more than 4 hours

Daily Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - NEWS - BY MARTIN BAGOT martin.bagot@mir­ror.co.uk Health & Science Cor­re­spon­dent

HOS­PI­TALS are fac­ing the worst win­ter ever – with more than 700,000 pa­tients in Eng­land alone set to wait longer than four hours in A&E.

The NHS aims to ad­mit or dis­charge 95% of pa­tients within four hours of ar­riv­ing in emer­gency de­part­ments.

But the Health Foun­da­tion ex­pects the num­ber of pa­tients seen in this time frame could fall to 87% be­tween Jan­uary and March – which would be the worst quar­terly per­for­mance since records be­gan in 2004.

The char­ity said hos­pi­tals are now strug­gling to meet this tar­get all year round, not j ust in win­ter when pres­sures are tra­di­tion­ally worse.

Unl ess th e trend of re­cent years is sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved, 735,000 pa­tients will wait longer than four hours, it es­ti­mates. That would be a 311% rise com­pared to win­ter 2010/11.

The Foun­da­tion es­ti­mated the NHS will need at least £360mil­lion ex­tra fund­ing this win­ter in or­der to meet this tar­get. It said un­less the trend of re­cent years is sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved, it could po­ten­tially see the worst per­for­mance ever against the four-hour tar­get.

Adam Roberts, of the Health Foun­da­tion, said: “With tem­per­a­tures al­ready drop­ping, it seems clear the NHS will be re­ly­ing on the hard work of its staff to get it through the ad­di­tional pres­sures of win­ter this year.

“There has al­ready been sub­stan­tial ac­tion taken, but un­less this sig­nif­i­cantly im­proves the trend of re­cent years, our pro­jec­tions give an idea of how much money it might take for the NHS to de­liver what the Gov­ern­ment has asked of it.”

The Health Foun­da­tion, plus The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust, have pre­vi­ously warned the Chan­cel­lor shoul d al lo cat e an ad di­tional £4bil­lion to the NHS next year to stop pa­tient care from de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. Dr Nick Scriven, of the So­ci­ety for Acute Medicine, said: “The NHS has not re­cov­ered from last win­ter and we have a dis­il­lu­sioned work­force be­ing asked to do more with less.

“We face tur­moil if the sys­tem comes un­der pres­sure – it sim­ply does not have the ca­pac­ity.”

PRES­SURE Hos­pi­tals at break­ing point this win­ter

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