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RCEM: Performance data shows NHS is ‘struggling to escape its spiral of decline’

9 January 2020

Responding to today’s publication of A&E performance figures for December that again showed another record low in terms of performance, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson said: 

“The NHS is struggling to escape its spiral of decline. With a record low in terms of four-hour performance and highest ever number of 12 hour waits, this will have been a miserable Christmas period for many patients and staff alike.”

Data showed four-hour performance at major A&Es in December 2019 at just 68.6% – down again from November’s worst ever performance. NHS England’s Situation Report show that across December 93.3% of general and acute beds were occupied.

Dr Henderson said: “It is quite clear our hospitals are at capacity and are without the levels of staffing needed to cope.

“Compared to December 2018, the number of patients waiting for over 12-hours has increased by over 700%. This is from the decision to admit – the actual figure from time of arrival will be much, much higher. This is terrible for patients and puts lives at risk.

“Our hardworking staff continue in the face of adversity, working in a system that for too long has been understaffed and underfunded, with the flip side of the problem – social care – completely ignored. It is little wonder that morale is low.

“Change is coming, but slowly. The recent promise of 40 new hospitals from the government must be kept, but the more pressing need is to address the capacity issues of the ones we do have. Many of our existing Emergency Departments are too small, run down and need of repair. Many will need to be upgraded – EDs must be fit for purpose for the next decade of clinical care.

“We physically do not have space for patients who are kept waiting, many of whom will be waiting to be tested using equipment that has either seen better days or that we have too little of. We have the lowest level of both CT and MRI scanners per capita in comparable nations.

“Putting staffing issues aside, without the space or equipment to do the job performance stands little chance of recovery. We urge the government to use March’s budget as an opportunity to increase capital budgets within the NHS.”

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