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Small A&E performance improvements “difficult to celebrate” as one in nine people endured waits of 12 hours or more last month

Thursday 14 March

The government must focus on reducing the longest A&E wait times, instead of “celebrating small improvements”

This is the response from The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) as data reveals last month was the busiest February on record for A&E attendance in England and saw one in nine people enduring waits of at least 12 hours.

The NHSE A&E Performance data for February 2024, released today (Thursday 14 March 2024), showed that 149,075 patients waited 12 hours or more from their time of arrival which is 11.3% of total attendances. The total number of patients who attended A&E was 1,347,297.

The data also reveals that 94.1% of hospital beds were full in February – once again far above the levels considered “safe” (85%.)

Earlier this week NHSE confirmed it is to offer financial incentives to A&Es to try to encourage them to meet the target that 76% of patients should be treated, discharged or admitted within four hours by the end of March. Last month A&Es in England only managed 70.9%.

RCEM has previous expressed concerns about the focus on the 76% standard (which was introduced as a temporary reduction from the previous target of 95%) believing it will mean more attention will be placed on ‘quick wins’ while patients who have more complex issues will end up waiting much longer.

Dr Adrian Boyle, President of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said: “‘Too many people are spending too long in our Emergency Departments, with the last two winters being considerably worse for both staff and patients.

“Small improvements in four-hour access standard performance – which still remains shockingly low – are difficult to celebrate when so many people are spending more than 12 hours from time of arrival.

“Long stays are not only inconvenient and tedious, for many people they are stressful, undignified and harmful.

“We urge policy makers to focus their efforts on people who need to be admitted to hospital and ensure that the system has sufficient capacity and resourcing so it flows as it should.

“This is not an unfixable problem, but it will require clear analysis and commitment to #ResuscitateEmergencyCare.”

As well as the monthly performance data for February 2024. NHSE also published the weekly ‘Winter Sitrep’ data for the week (4 – 10 March).

Graphs illustrating A&E performance including today’s data can be found on the RCEM website.

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