Lack of beds key to A&E and ambulance delays

The crisis in A&E, and the failure of NHS trusts to make any headway in stemming or reducing the waiting lists are not because of an increase in demand for emergency care, but a chronic shortage of front line general and acute beds, which was worsened by the pandemic, but pre-dates it and remains a major problem.

This is the clear and unambiguous conclusion from recent A&E figures compared with equivalent pre-pandemic figures.

The most recent quarterly figures show that there were 630,000 (23%) fewer of the most serious Type 1 A&E attendances in April-June 2022 compared with the same quarter in 2019: and there were 125,000 (8%) fewer emergency admissions.

But, despite this reduction in pressure, numbers of patients forced to wait over 4 hours for a bed (trolley waits) more than doubled from 186,000 to almost 385,000, and there was a staggering 49-fold increase in numbers waiting over 12 hours for a bed, from 1,320 in April-June 2019 to 65,225 in April-June 2022.

Full story in The Lowdown, 25 July 2022