The Daily Telegraph

Long A&E waits linked to 23,000 excess deaths

- By Lizzie Roberts

LONG waits in accident and emergency department­s were linked to more than 23,000 excess deaths last year, a Royal College has warned.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) tracked waits of more than 12 hours in A&E department­s across England from the time patients arrived to when they were given a bed.

NHS England only tracks waiting times from the moment a decision is made to admit the patient.

A Freedom of Informatio­n request by the college revealed more than 1.6million patients waited 12 hours or more in A&E from their time of arrival last year.

That is more than four times higher than official NHS England data, which show 347,703 patients waited 12 hours from a decision to admit them. Using this new data, RCEM estimates more than 23,000 excess patient deaths last year were linked to long waits in A&E.

Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the RCEM, said: “For a long-time we have known the true scale of long waits in emergency department­s has been hidden. Long waiting times are associated with serious patient harm and patient deaths – the scale shown here for 2022 is deeply distressin­g.”

The RCEM claims the number of patients that come to harm from A&E delays is “radically underrepre­sented” because of the NHS’S decision-to-admit metric, but it welcomed the move by the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England to publish 12-hour arrival data from April.

Dr Boyle added: “We believe that being honest with the data will be a service to patients and staff. It will lead to a better understand­ing of patient flow and to both transforma­tion and change in the emergency care system.”

A spokesman for NHS England said it would “not be appropriat­e” to recognise the excess deaths figures as fact as the cause of excess deaths is down to “a number of different factors”.

He added: “The data highlighte­d looks at time in A&E rather than waits and covers a year when the NHS experience­d four record-breaking months for attendance­s in A&E. The NHS is focused on improving patient flow through emergency department­s and increasing the number of patients being discharged when they are medically ready.”

Meanwhile, lengthy NHS waiting lists mean a fifth of adults have given up on their GP, according to an Office for National Statistics study.

In January, 21 per cent of adults reported they had needed to contact their GP practice but decided not to. The majority of these people (59 per cent) said this was because it would take too long to be seen.

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