12 June 2019
In response to the Public Accounts Committee report on NHS waiting times, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Gordon Miles said: “Many of the recommendations in this report are to be welcomed, particularly the desire for patients to be at the heart of any changes to waiting time standards, along with the call for robust data collection around patient harm due to long waiting times.
“It is self-evident that long waits are not beneficial to the health of patients. The report rightly highlights that bed occupancy is routinely more than 90% – an unsafe level in itself – meaning that patients waiting for elective care may have their treatment postponed as that bed is needed for an emergency admission.
“A 7% decline in beds since 2010-11 has meant that the challenge of admitting more and sicker patients into the hospital from the Emergency Department has been immense. The result of which has been declining four-hour performance and increased waiting times elsewhere in the system.
“There is a limited amount that can be achieved by hard pressed NHS personnel and a recovery in performance is unlikely to happen without an increase to the numbers of hospital beds, along with more staff and improvements to social care.
“But there are limits to what the system can achieve with the resources it has. The NHS was clear that a year on year increase of 4% would be needed to simply stand still. It got 3.4% which, while very welcome, means we need to be realistic about what can be achieved from efficiency gains alone.”