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Latest RCEM data shows 1 in 11 patients experienced 12-hour admission delays in first week of February

14 February 2022

In the first week of February, 12 hour delays in Emergency Departments were the highest they’ve been so far in The Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s 2021/22 Winter Flow Project.

6,582 patients spent over half a day in EDs waiting for admission, accounting for 9.17% of all attendances – roughly 1 in 11 patients. The number of 12 hour delays is up by 12.11% on the previous week, despite attendances increasing by only 0.37%.

Commenting on the data, President of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson, said: “While attention is understandably focused on the ever increasing waiting list for elective care, there is a serious emergency in emergency care that is putting significant numbers of lives at risk.

Waits for admission beyond five hours increase the chances of a patient dying, yet in the first week of February alone, we’ve seen 6,582 patients waiting for over half a day – and this is only a small sample. Since October there has now been over 100,000 12hour delays across the 40 UK sites participating in the project.

“We cannot hope to fully address this problem – a problem which we know kills people – without fully acknowledging the scale of it. But we know that the published figures for England – which measure from decision to admit to admission – are the tip of the iceberg, and not in line with the way devolved nations publish this data. This must change immediately to ensure that these life threatening waits are fully exposed and understood, helping us to prevent them long term.

“NHS staff do all they can to prevent these kind of waits, and there is huge effort going into freeing up capacity; the first week of February saw the highest bed numbers in the project so far.

“However, at this stage last year there were 6,213 more beds in service, and with 11,191 patients in hospital for over seven days in the first week of February (the second highest in this year’s project), the drive for capacity can only go so far with limited resources.

“The inescapable, undeniable reality of the situation is that trusts & boards can only do so much. To recover the situation in EDs – and prevent UEC derailing the elective recovery – the government must publish a fully funded workforce plan and dedicated Urgent and Emergency Care recovery plan. Given the sort of numbers we are seeing, it is bewildering that we do not yet have one.”


Notes to Editor

Winter Flow is an annual project run by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine since 2015. It is now in its seventh year. The Winter Flow Project runs from October 2021 to March 2022. Anonymised data from 40 sites across the UK will be published on a weekly basis.

The project collects a wider range of data to explore the other factors that affect Emergency Departments and patient ‘flow’. Trusts are asked to submit on a weekly basis data on:

  • The number of acute beds in service
  • Four-hour performance
  • The number of unplanned attendances at Emergency Departments
  • The number of patients spending more than 12 hours in an Emergency Department from arrival to departure
  • The number of patients spending greater than seven days in hospital from admission
  • The number of cancelled elective operations
  • Ambulance handover delays and hours lost.

Weekly reports for 2021/2022 will be published at

Latest report (14 February 2022)

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