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RCEM: a failure to tackle long waits could lead to ‘devastating repeat of last year’ with 24 hours in A&E once again becoming reality

12 October 2023

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has warned that a failure to tackle long waits in A&E could lead to a ‘devastating repeat of last year’ when almost 400,000 patients waited 24 hours or more in A&E.

Published today (12 October 2023) by NHS England, the latest A&E performance figures in September 2023 show 123,870 people waited 12 hours or more in A&E from their time of arrival, which works out as almost one in every 11 patients.

Dr Adrian Boyle, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, commented:

“As we exit a challenging summer, we look anxiously to winter. We are worried, and these figures show exactly why we are right to be.

“In September around one in 11 of patient attendances waited 12 hours or more from their time of arrival. That is unacceptable.

“We know these long delays are dangerous and are associated with harm and ultimately more people dying. Since it was announced in January 2023, the urgent and emergency care delivery plan has failed to minimise delays in A&Es and now winter is upon us.

“We urgently need meaningful action that focuses on reducing these long waits in A&Es and their associated harm. A failure to act could easily lead to a devastating repeat of last year which saw 24 hours in A&E become reality for nearly 400,000 people.

“We have already heard concerning reports of Trusts declaring critical incidents with huge numbers of patients facing delays to care and long queues of ambulances outside A&Es. This is an indication of what is to come this winter and it calls for urgent action before it is too late.

“We urge the government to go further in its winter plans for the NHS and adopt our priorities to #ResuscitateEmergencyCare.”

The data comes after the end of Political Party season where each detailed its priorities for the NHS and social care.

RCEM President Dr Adrian Boyle attended both the Conservative and Labour events where he undertook a series of events and meetings to promote the College’s General Election Manifesto to #ResuscitateEmergencyCare which calls on those who will form the next Government to:

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

Today NHS England also published the latest data on virtual wards which show that they have reached their target of 10,000 virtual ward beds, pledged in the urgent and emergency care delivery plan.

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