England’s hospital A&E departments have experienced the worst quarter since records began, new official figures show, as six hospitals declare ‘major incident’ status and close A&E doors to many patients. The statistics released by NHS England show that in October to December 2014, 407,844 patients waited over four hours to be seen compared to 227,400 in the same quarter last year. The NHS also released data for the last fortnight of December, which shows the number of patients who have been admitted and wait up to 12 hours on a trolley for a bed to become free almost quadrupling to 20,962 – up from 5,573 in those weeks last year.
The data comes the day after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt gave NHS hospital bosses a four-hour deadline to provide ideas on ending the crisis in A&E departments – a move that revealed the lack of Government planning. Days before Christmas, a whistleblower revealed that Hunt had agreed to proposals to allow ambulances to take longer to answer calls from this week after six months of missed response time targets. The Secretary of State has failed to confirm if the new plans are now in place and if callers can expect to wait even longer for vehicles to arrive.
Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, said: "These figures confirm the serious deterioration in the NHS under this Government but reveal, more worryingly, a dangerous slump in A&E performance in recent weeks. We have repeatedly warned David Cameron to get a grip on the growing crisis in A&E and ambulances services. He has failed to do so and has now left patients all over England exposed to unacceptable levels of risk."
Mr Burnham continued: "It beggars belief that, only yesterday, on the day when hospitals were declaring major incidents, Jeremy Hunt was asking officials to email hospitals asking for ideas in four bullet-points on how to solve the winter crisis. There could be no clearer illustration of the Government’s failure to plan and get ahead of the very serious situation in which the NHS now finds itself. It smacks of panic when what is needed is planning and leadership."
"The Prime Minister’s central promise at the last election was to protect the NHS. It is now clear for all to see that he has put it in intensive care. Patients and the public whose hospitals are in danger of being overwhelmed need answers today and what he will do to turn things around." Andy Burnham added.