Royal College of Emergency Medicine Menu Menu

24 Hours in A&E – no longer just a TV show, a shameful reality for hundreds of thousands of people

Whichever political party wins the next General Election it must commit to #ResuscitateEmergencyCare.

That is the unequivocal message from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) as launches its General Election Manifesto 2023/34 – #ResuscitateEmergencyCare by revealing almost 400,000 people waited more than 24 hours in English A&Es last year.

The manifesto, published today (25 September 2023), sets out the five priorities political parties must commit to in order to ease the crisis being experienced in Urgent and Emergency Care in the UK.

  • End ambulance queues and overcrowded Emergency Departments.
  • Provide the UK with enough Emergency Medicine staff to deliver safe and sustainable care
  • Resource the NHS to ensure the emergency care system can provide equitable care to all.
  • Introduce transparent ways of measuring how hospitals are performing so we know which ones need to improve.

To demonstrate starkly some of the issues highlighted in its manifesto RCEM has today released NHS England data obtained via a Freedom of Information request.

It reveals the shocking fact that between April 2022 and March 2023, a total of 399,908 people who attended English Emergency Departments faced delays of 24 hours or more.

Unsurprisingly, the highest number of people experienced 24hr+ waits in December 2022 at the height of the NHS winter crisis when almost 57,000 people were delayed by 24 hours or more – more than one in every four patients who attended an A&E.

Commenting on the data, RCEM President, Dr Adrian Boyle, said: “These are truly shocking figures. The target is that people who attend A&Es are able to leave within four hours – but in reality, almost 400,000 people waited six times that long.

“It is unacceptable, it is morally wrong, and it risks lives.

“None of my colleagues in Emergency Medicine want to work in conditions that create situations like this. This week our members have been sharing the shocking reality of their experiences in their departments via our social media and they have been heartbreaking to read.

“We must never allow this terrible situation to become accepted as normal. It really is the case that 24 Hours in A&E is no longer just a TV show – it is the shameful reality for hundreds of thousands of people – and it must not be allowed to continue.

“That is why we have come up with our manifesto which we are urging policy makers across the political spectrum to embrace and adopt so we can end this scandal, we can #ResuscitateEmergencyCare, and provide the care our members want to, and that our patients deserve.”

RCEM worked with the Press Association to highlight this issue to the public and have also created an animation to raise awareness of the issues facing the Emergency Care system.


Over the coming weeks Dr Boyle will be presenting the manifesto at RCEM’s Annual Scientific Conference in Glasgow, as well undertaking a series of events and meetings with politicians, policy makers and other key stakeholders during the Conservative and Labour Party Conferences.

Earlier this year RCEM published research which revealed there were an estimated 23,000 excess patient deaths in England in 2022 associated with waits of 12 hours or more in A&Es.

Using the same methodology, between January and July this year there have been almost 12,000 excess deaths linked to these 12-hour plus waits.

Visit the RCEM website to find out more about how you can help #ResuscitateEmergencyCare

Back to top Back to top