A&E patients in England experienced the worst month of delays in January since a four-hour target was introduced 13 years ago, leaked figures suggest.
Provisional data passed to the BBC says an unprecedented number of patients spent longer than the target time waiting to be seen in emergency wards in January.
It showed that more than 60,000 people waited between four and 12 hours for a hospital bed. And more than 780 waited more than 12 hours. Both figures are record highs since the introduction in 2004 of a target that 95% of patients must be seen and either admitted or discharged in under four hours.
The leaked document from NHS Improvement suggests that out of 1.4m visits in January, only 82% were dealt with within the four-hour target.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dr Tajek Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “The [four-hour] target is a very sophisticated metric of the overall system and the thermostat is set red hot in the emergency department.”
He added: “We are facing an incredible demand on our services. The dignity of care is significantly compromised. The international evidence shows that the more crowded your emergency departments are the higher the risk of dying. Delays to assessment will compromise your care.”
The NHS Providers chief executive, Chris Hopson, said: “These figures have not been verified and should therefore be treated with caution, but they are in line with the feedback we have been getting from trusts.
Full story in The Guardian, 9 February 2017