Most patients ‘to face waits of over FOUR HOURS at blackspot A&Es’
STRUGGLING Accident & Emergency departments are set to be engulfed in a winter crisis experts warned last night, forcing soaring numbers of patients to wait far beyond the four-hour target time.
The grim prediction comes as a Mail on Sunday investigation reveals ‘blackspot’ NHS trusts where it is feared less than half of A&E patients will be seen within four hours, if – as expected – a flu outbreak hits Britain with a vengeance.
Official figures reveal that a dozen NHS hospital trusts failed to treat even threequarters of patients in the target time in October, despite the weather being mild.
Numerous trusts recorded monthly A&E figures below 67 per cent last winter, meaning that every third patient had to wait four hours or more. But in the blackspot trusts, the picture was worse.
At London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs casualty departments at Ealing Hospital and Northwick Park Hospital i n Harrow, only 50.7 per cent of A&E patients were treated in under four hours in January – the worst monthly figure yet. There was a similar situation at Hillingdon Hospital, West London, and campaigners believe the closure of two nearby A&Es in 2014 has increased pressures.
They say that A&E departments at Ealing and Charing Cross remain under threat of being effectively down- graded, despite Government assurances.
Taj Hassan, chairman of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said a chronic lack of hospital beds, exhausted staff and a flu outbreak look set to trigger a winter of dis- content. He fears that waiting times will rocket, with potentially fatal consequences.
Dr Hassan said: ‘Last winter was incredibly tough and all the indicators suggest this winter is going to be no better, and will probably be worse.’ NHS
‘More sick people die in crowded hospitals’
figures show the country is peppered with A& Es which struggled last winter – and continue to do so – with notable examples in Margate, Blackpool, Stoke, Truro, Portsmouth, Harlow, Coventry, York, Preston and Watford. In September, Labour MP Rosie Duffield said Margate’s A& E had patients waiting up to 13 hours.
Dr Hassan said: ‘It’s clearly recognised that a crowded emergency department is associated with enhanced harm to patients. More patients will die, and more will end up having a prolonged hospital stay.’
Last winter was both mild and relatively benign for flu, he said, yet hospitals still ended up in dire straights with packed A&Es and a desperate shortage of beds. ‘We may or may not get away with a mild winter this year,’ he said.
Averaged across all England’s 190 or so A&Es, 84.6 per cent of patients were treated in four hours in September, down on 86 per cent the previous September.
In October, the figure was 84.9 per cent, a slight rise on the same month in 2016, when it stood at 83.7 per cent.
While the figures are similar for these two years, they represent a marked deterioration since 2014.
NHS England said: ‘The latest figures show A& E performance has improved on last year… The NHS is now treating more than two million more patients in under four hours than was the case ten years ago.’