‘Eternal winter’ for NHS revealed by A&E waiting time figures

Full Story in The Guardian 12 April 2018

A record low in A&E treatment performance by the NHS has prompted warnings that the health service is in an “eternal winter” as hospitals cannot cope with rising patient need.

Just 76.4% of patients needing urgent care were treated within four hours at hospital accident and emergency units in England in March – the lowest proportion since records began in 2010 and down on the 76.9% figure in February.

In addition, the proportion of patients waiting to receive planned care in hospital within the 18 weeks guaranteed by the NHS constitution has fallen to its worst level. Just 87.9% of those awaiting hip, knee, hernia, cataract or other types of operations or procedures, began their care in February in that time. Almost half a million patients have waited longer than 18 weeks.

The longer waits for both key types of care come after the NHS experienced its toughest winter; many hospitals ran out of beds and almost 600,000 patients were forced to wait with ambulance crews because A&E staff were too busy to take over their care.