Accident and Emergency waiting times in England hospitals have dropped to the lowest level in a decade. Recent reports show that now 92.6 percent of patients are being seen within four hours, short of the 95 percent target rate set by the Government.
There were nearly 5.4 million visits to A&E during January to March of this year, down slightly on the same two month period the year before.
The number of admissions that waited over four hours for a bed, also known as a trolley wait, has doubled to over 113,000. That is double the number from the January to March quarter in 2014. Labour immediately linked the figures to cuts in GP services.
In the week before Christmas in December 2014, 88.8 percent of emergency patients arriving at hospitals were dealt with within four hours, though that rose to 90.5 percent the following week. From December to March, the rate of people being seen in the targeted time has only increased by 2.1 percent.
Hospitals have been calling in extra staff and cancelling non-emergency care, including routine operations. The Government believe there is a ‘huge amount of pressure’ on the health service.
Speaking to a worker at Royal Bournemouth General Hospital, Rachel Dyer, 34, commented “Patients are always the people who suffer the most from the failures of the NHS. The election parties promising more and unrealistic money splurges for the health service will not make them feel any better.”
The conservatives in this year’s general election manifesto have pledged to spend a minimum of £8billion extra funding for the NHS every year by 2020. David Cameron also promises pensioners aged 75 and over guaranteed same-day access to a GP as part of the Tories “total revolution” of GP services.
Labour has declared in their manifesto that they will spend a further £2.5billion pounds on the NHS service. They also guarantee to recruit 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs, paid for by a mansion tax on homes valued over £2million, and guarantee GP appointments for people within 48 hours.
A lot of pressure on the A&E service is coming from elderly people, often with many different health conditions, and the best place for them should be the A&E room, but is becoming the worst place due to the 4 hour waiting times increasing.
The 111 NHS phone service is also now contributing to the problem. The help service is reportedly sending more and more people to A&E to sort their medical issue rather than helping sort out the situation from the caller’s home.
Speaking to a worker at Hillingdon Hospital in West London, Daniel Harvey, 23, voiced that “There needs to be a marked improvement in the NHS 111 service to get the best out of it. Preventing unnecessary A&E admissions by having an effective, out-of-hours telephone service is an important part of cutting down waiting time.”
The coverage of the 111 helpline from the NHS has grown from 6 million to almost the full population, and with most of the callers being recommended to attend A&E, the NHS are putting themselves under pressure for lower waiting times. Another factor in contribution to poor waiting times is the lack of hospital staff. A recent report from the OECD shows that the UK ranked 28th out of 30 nations, ranking just above Israel and Turkey. Reports show that in 2012 the UK had just 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people, against an OECD average of 4.8.
The UK also was also reported to have had less than half the amount of equipment than average, such as computerised tomography (CT) scanners and magnetic resonance image (MRI) units than the average, at 6.8 and 8.7 per million people.