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A&E wait target missed all winter

The NHS has failed to meet its target of 95% of patients waiting four hours or less at A&E departments in England every week of the winter, meaning the average for the whole year will not be met.

The proportion of patients spending four hours or less from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge has not reached the 95% target since the week ending September 28, meaning it has been missed for 23 weeks in a row.

It is the first time the standard has not been met over a whole year.

This winter has seen an unprecedented demand on A&E services, with two weeks in December having the two highest attendance figures ever recorded for a winter period.

Demand in November and December was particularly high, with attendances up by 6.2% over those two months.

The highest peak was seen before Christmas, in the week ending December 21, when there were 446,000 attendances - up by 9.3% on the same week last winter.

The next highest attendance was a week earlier, when 440,000 patients were dealt with - up 5.9% on the same week a year before.

Altogether there were more than seven million attendances over the four-month period from November to February - an increase of 190,000 on the same period last year.

Even before the winter had begun l ast year overall saw an average of 5,400 more attendances at A&E each day compared with 2009.

Despite this, an average of 3,000 more people were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours compared with the same year, the Department of Health (DoH) said.

A DoH spokeswoman said: "We know the NHS is busier than ever before and despite missing the A&E standard for the year, over nine out of ten patients are being seen, treated and discharged within four hours.

"We've given a record £700 million this winter for almost 800 more doctors, 4,700 more nurses and 6,400 more beds and are backing the NHS' long-term plan, which focuses on joining up care and doing more to prevent illness, and have provided an extra £2 billion in funding next year to build a service fit for the future."

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "This is a serious admission of failure by the Government. David Cameron has lost control of the things in the NHS that matter most to the public.

"He caused the A&E crisis by systematically dismantling GP services and elderly care and the result has been a devastating surge in patients coming to hospital A&E departments across England. The NHS as we know it can't survive another five years of the Tories' failing plan.

"Labour has a better plan - to invest in and improve our NHS, including a Time to Care Fund to recruit 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, guaranteed GP appointments within 48 hours and cancer tests within one week."

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