10 March 2022
The latest Emergency Department performance figures published by NHS England for February 2022 show:
Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the Royal college of Emergency Medicine, said:
“The latest data show the second highest number of 12-hour waits since records began. Between October 2021 and February 2022 63,653 patients were delayed by 12-hours or more in an Emergency Department. To put this in perspective, from August 2010 to September 2021, a period of just over 11 years, a total of 52,181 patients were delayed by 12-hours or more in an Emergency Department.
“This statistic is staggering and should alarm all health and political leaders. The burden of responsibility can no longer be placed on burned out and overwhelmed staff who are struggling to manage this crisis.
“Four-hour performance reaching its lowest since records began and 16,404 patients delayed by 12-hours or more (from decision to admit to admission, which is only the tip of the iceberg of long delays) reveal a health system under severe pressure.
“The data highlight the crisis in unscheduled care but what they really show are the crises across the system in both social care and Primary care, the difficulties in discharging patients, a lack of diagnostic capacity, widespread bed shortages throughout the system, and an understaffed workforce under immense strain.
“The system is interlinked, a crisis in Urgent and Emergency care is a result of pressures elsewhere and may cause pressure down the line, for example in derailing elective care recovery. These all amount to a major patient safety risk. We know patients come to harm as they wait for ambulances at home, as they wait to be transferred from the back of an ambulance into the Emergency Department, and as they wait for a bed in an Emergency Department. Staff also face moral injury, stress and distress as they try to manage safety in their clinical areas and minimise patient harm.
“For months now, the metrics have simply documented the crisis in Urgent and Emergency care without driving any improvement. We must see meaningful action and crucially, organisations must prioritise and be held to account on the right metrics that do drive improvement. Patients are coming to serious harm, fixing flow must be the priority – to move patients through the system in a timely way – and performance metrics should be used as a driver for this.”
Notes to editor
NHS England currently measure 12-hour waits from decision to admit to admission. The true scale of 12-hour waits is much higher. The Royal College’s Winter Flow Project records 12-hour delays from time of arrival in the Emergency Department and, from 40 participating UK sites, the Winter Flow project has recorded 121,003 12-hour waits (from time of arrival) since October 2021.