A&E wait times of more than four hours to affect a million more people

A million more patients could face waits of more than four hours in NHS A&E wards in England by 2019-20 in the absence of urgent action to address rising demand, the British Medical Association has said.

Analysis by the doctors’ union, shared exclusively with the Guardian, projects that the number of people attending emergency wards and waiting more than four hours to be treated could reach 3.7 million in three years’ time, up from 2.6 million in the year ending September 2017.

The forecast assumes numbers increase at the same rate as the average over the past five years and a “do-nothing scenario”, in which funding remains at its current level and the proposed measures to address pressures have little or no effect.

If accurate, it would mean 84.8% of patients being seen within four hours between October 2019 and September 2020, down from 89% in 2016-17 and significantly short of the 95% target, which was effectively scrapped by Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, in January.

The BMA chair of council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “These alarming figures show the scale of the challenge facing the NHS. As demand increases and waiting times rise, many more patients are left waiting longer for care. It is clear from this analysis that we need urgent action to close the gap between investment and rising demand on the NHS.”

The union also predicts that “trolley waits”, where patients are left waiting more than four hours for a hospital bed after a decision to admit, will more than triple by 2019-20, from 566,000 last year to 1.78 million. It says there could be an average of 5.2 million patients on the elective treatment waiting list by then – up from 3.9 million – for operations such as cataract removal, hernia repair or hip or knee replacement.

Article from the Guardian, 29 October 2017