Latest data show that hospital bed occupancy remains at unsafe levels (93%) as one in nine patients faced 12 hour waits in A&Es in December in England. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has described it is a ‘shameful, distressing and deeply saddening’ situation.
Today (11 January 2024) two sets of data published by NHS England, have been released: the latest Urgent and Emergency Care (UEC) Daily Situation Reports 2023-24 (also known as Winter Sitrep); and monthly A&E performance figures for December 2023.
Dr Adrian Boyle, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said:
“While these data show marginal improvements on last December 2022, the reality is that there has been little to no improvement in emergency care. There certainly has not been the meaningful improvement we would have expected one year on from the publication of the the Government’s urgent and emergency care recovery plan.
“Hospitals remain at unsafe levels of bed occupancy, which presents a significant risk to patient safety. The knock-on effect of ‘exit block’ (whereby we are unable to discharge patients and beds remain occupied for long periods of time) on emergency care is detrimental to patients and their care.
“One year on from the UEC recovery plan and nearly all of our membership will feel that nothing has changed. They have continued to see full hospitals, corridors crammed with patients, A&Es with ‘elastic walls’ stretched to the limit and queues of ambulances outside. This is their reality.
“12-hour waits were once non-existent and categorically unacceptable, now they are so normalised, with December’s data showing one in nine patients waited 12 hours in A&E.
“There is an association between delays in emergency care and excess deaths – yet the number of 12-hour waits has not been brought down and we are not seeing the concern or the necessary, urgent action that any potential ‘excess deaths’ should warrant. The mortality risk alone should demand a zero-tolerance policy on 12-hour waits.
“It is a shameful, distressing and deeply saddening situation. The system is failing patients – and in the under-bedded, understaffed, underfunded and under-resourced system – it is existing staff who are stretching, breaking and burning themselves out to ensure patients receive the quality care they deserve.
“A few extra beds and new initiatives will not resolve this deep-rooted and systemic problem, we have laid out our priorities to #ResuscitateEmergencyCare, these must be adopted to see real and tangible improvement, transformation and change in emergency care.”
The figures come as research by the University of Bath, in collaboration with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, finds that burnout and retention crisis in Emergency Medicine threatens the safe delivery of emergency care.