Fresh fears over A&E waiting times

THE Government has been urged to “get a grip” after figures showed that waits of more than 12 hours in A&E among elderly people have more than doubled in two years.

Data from NHS Digital shows a huge jump in the number of long waits nationally among those aged 70 and over – from 34,088 in 2013/14 to 88,252 in 2015/16.

Among all ages, there were 185,017 waits of 12 hours or more in 2015/16 – up from 157,895 the year before and 87,213 in 2013/14.

In this region, while the majority of patients were seen within the Government’s recommended four hour target in 2015/16, a significant number were not.

NHS Digital’s Hospital Episode Statistics showed that in 2015-16 there were 289,209 people who attended A&Es operated by the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, of which 10.9 per cent waited for more than four hours.

The four hour target applies to all patients from those with life threatening emergencies to minor ailments and measures the point at which a patient arrives at A&E to when they are admitted, discharged or transferred elsewhere.

On Monday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested he might alter the four-hour target, saying it should only apply to the most urgent cases.

The South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which operates one of the biggest hospitals in the region, the James Cook University Hospital, had 124,197 attendees to A&E in 2015-16, of which 7.6 per cent waited for more than four hours.

At North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust there were 87,772 A&E attendees in 2015-16. A total of 5.4 per cent waited longer than four hours.

Redcar MP Anna Turley said the Government was not dealing with the root cause in terms of the difficulties A&Es were facing.

She said: “It’s quite clear that targets are being missed.

“The problem is a lot of preventive services are not working, if people cannot get an appointment with their GP they may go straight to A&E. Equally people are struggling at times to get advice from NHS 111 because they cannot get through.

“With the cuts to social care even when the elderly are deemed medically fit to leave hospital they sometimes cannot because there is no provision for them at home.

“The Government needs to get a grip.”

Chris Moulton, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said of the NHS Digital data: “We don’t have enough acute hospital beds or enough social care for a growing and ageing population.

“These figures are from the time people arrive at A&E and show just how bad things are.”

Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokeswoman insisted that the Government was not abandoning its commitment to A&E patients being dealt within four hours.

She said: “The point the Health Secretary was making was about making sure that A&E is there for people for what it says on the tin – accident and emergency.

“It is not about non-urgent care.”

The NHS Digital report showed there were 20.5m attendances recorded at A&E in England during 2015/16 with Monday the most popular day to attend.

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