Senior UK health official warns of ‘unsafe and undignified’ care due to A&E delays

Ian Higginson, a vice-president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, has warned about attempts to “discredit” figures estimating that as many as 500 people are dying each week because of the delays.

Official data will not be released until later this month, but the organisation said it was expecting it to show December was the worst month on record for waiting times at A&E departments, leading to what it described as “unsafe and undignified” care.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, Higginson said the “appalling” waits could not be blamed on winter flu or Covid, as more than a dozen NHS trusts and ambulance services declared critical incidents over the festive period.

He said: “These are real figures and I worry that we’re going to hear attempts to spin and manipulate this data and discredit it. I think if we hear that, we’ve got to say no – that is spin. This is a real problem. It’s happening now in our emergency departments.

“What we’ve been hearing over the last few days is that the current problems are all due to Covid or they’re all due to flu, or that this is complex, you mustn’t jump to conclusions – all that sort of stuff.

“If you’re at the frontline, you know that this is a longstanding problem. This isn’t a short-term thing. The sort of things we’re seeing happen every winter, and it still seems to come as a surprise to the NHS. It gets worse every winter.”

Full story in The Guardian, 2 January 2023