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Number of A&E patients waiting more than four hours up by a third

A total of 2,266,913 people attended emergency units in July.

A total of 2,266,913 people attended AandE units in England in July (PA)
A total of 2,266,913 people attended AandE units in England in July (PA)

By Jemma Crew, PA Health and Science Correspondent

The number of patients waiting more than four hours to be admitted to A&E has risen more than a third in a year and is at a record high, new NHS figures show.

The number of patients seen after four hours was 275,526 last month compared with 208,083 in July 2018, an increase of 32.4%, NHS performance statistics for England show.

There were 57,694 A&E patients waiting more than four hours in July from decision to admit to admission – a rise of 34.7% from the same month last year.

This is also the highest number for July since current records began in August 2010.

Of these, 436 patients waited more than 12 hours – 192.6% higher than July 2018.

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(PA Graphics)

This July, which saw record temperatures, also saw a record number of people visit A&E, with 2,266,913 attendances.

The previous highest number of attendances was in July 2018 (2,179,896).

The number of emergency admissions rose 4.6% from the previous year, with 554,069 in July.

An NHS spokesman said: “A&E doctors, nurses, paramedics and other staff have pulled out all the stops to deal with the record heat and record number of attendees over July, treating the highest number of patients ever within four hours – and on average 2,300 more people a day within four hours than in June.

“At the same time, a record number of people have benefited from fast cancer checks or treatment for psychosis and eating disorders over the last three months, while millions more people have benefited from routine tests and treatments over the last year.”

But the Society of Acute Medicine accused the Government of peddling “political spin” following unheeded warnings.

SAM president Dr Nick Scriven said: “This broken record has been playing for so long now that our warnings about the crises engulfing the NHS barely have any impact on those at the top.”

He added: “This week demonstrates political spin is back in full swing under Boris Johnson’s leadership, with massive funding announcements and talk of artificial intelligence while the issues on the ground remain unaddressed.”

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(PA Graphics)

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said: “The soaring temperatures in July have taken their toll on patients and staff, with a record number of people turning up to A&;E last month.

“The number of people waiting over four hours on trolleys to be admitted was also unusually high for summer at over 57,000 – a figure that would have once been unthinkable, even in the depths of winter.”

Of patients waiting to start planned treatment at the end of June, 86.3% had been on the waiting list for less than 18 weeks, below the 92% target.

The number of patients waiting to start treatment at the end of June was 4.4 million – a 4.6% rise from the previous June and up more than a fifth since 2016.

The number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks rose from 502,000 in June last year to 601,000 – more than one in seven of the total.

For people with suspected cancer, 2,282,036 were seen in the 12 months to June 2019, an increase of 13.7% or 274,400 more patients than the previous year.

The NHS missed its target of 93% of people with suspected cancer being seen by a specialist within two weeks of an urgent referral by their GP.

Some 90% were seen by a specialist, and 76% of people began treatment within 62 days in June, less than the 85% target.

This is the lowest percentage ever recorded during the summer months, hospital doctors union the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) said.

The new Prime Minister has identified reducing NHS waiting times as one of his key priorities, but today’s statistics show there is a mountain to climb Tim Gardner, Health Foundation

HCSA president Dr Claudia Paoloni said the effects of pension tax changes had “undoubtedly” impacted on care, warning that waiting lists could hit five million people without reform.

Tim Gardner, senior policy fellow at the Health Foundation charity, said: “The new Prime Minister has identified reducing NHS waiting times as one of his key priorities, but today’s statistics show there is a mountain to climb.

“Hospitals are struggling to cope with the demand of emergency admissions which have continued to grow year on year, while people are waiting longer for planned surgery.

“The NHS has routinely missed the key 62-day cancer waiting time target for over five years, with delays in diagnosis playing a key role. If not adequately addressed, these ongoing pressures will increasingly impact on patients and the level of care that the health service can deliver.

“And it’s not just about A&E – sadly these figures show relentless pressure throughout the whole system.

“More than one in 10 people on the list for planned treatment are now waiting over 18 weeks, the worst level since January 2009, and the key two-month cancer treatment target now hasn’t been met in three-and-a-half years.”

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