We must not normalise crisis or celebrate small improvements – our patients and our members deserve more.
That is the response of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine to the latest A&E performance data.
Today (14 December 2023) two sets of data published by NHS England, have been released: the latest Urgent and Emergency Care (UEC) Daily Situation Reports 2023-24< (also known as Winter Sitrep); and monthly A&E performance figures for November 2023.
While there have been some small signs of improvement in certain areas the overall situation remains extremely challenging with A&E departments declaring critical incidents this week, clinicians describing things as the worst they have experienced and ambulance chiefs expressing serious concerns about the pressure their service is under.
The most recent Winter UEC Sitrep data which covers the period 4-10 December 2023 paints a worrying picture with bed occupancy running dangerously high at almost 95% (the level considered ‘safe‘ is 85%) and two-thirds of ambulances not meeting the 15-minute target to hand over patients.
There was a small uplift in the number of beds available within hospitals, but these do not appear to have helped to ease pressure elsewhere in the system, and there remain thousands of patients, who are well enough to go home, but have not been discharged – occupying beds which are needed for other people.
The November performance data reveals that last month more than 144,000 people who visited an A&E within the month were there for more than 12 hours – the target is four hours.
Reacting to these figures, Dr Adrian Boyle, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:
“While the data suggest a marginal improvement compared to last year, it’s just deja-vu and we must not allow this permacrisis to become accepted as ‘normal’.
“Ambulances are queueing outside A&Es, Trusts are declaring critical incidents, patients are facing dangerously long waits in overcrowded and uncomfortable A&Es. Conditions are intense and difficult for staff, and the experience of patients is distressing and undignified.
“Clinicians are doing their very best, despite the circumstances, to deliver optimal and compassionate care, and mitigate any potential risks to patients but it is taking its toll on them too.
“It is welcome to see small increases in bed numbers, but it is not enough and patients continue to endure long waits.
“Significant and urgent action is required now to address these issues – this is what our members and their patients need and deserve.”
Data in detail:
The latest Urgent and Emergency Care Winter sitrep data for week ending 10 December (week four of publication for 2023/24) published today by NHS England show:
Published today (14 December 2023) by NHS England, the latest A&E performance figures for November 2023