Researchers say that the NHS in England missed its A&E waiting time target in the first three months of the year.
313,000 people had to wait for more than four hours in A&E. This has increased by 39% on the same period in 2012, according to an analysis carried out by the King’s Fund on official statistics.
This represents 5.9% of patients when the allowed leeway is 5%.
This is the worst level for 9 years.
In response, the government has said that extra money was being made available to the worst-hit hospitals.
There is evidence however that hospital performance on areas such as infection control and cancer care could be deteriorating.
This is news that has been cited before. Last month, doctors and managers claimed that the system was headed for crisis as the NHS is struggling to cope with the rising demand amid pressures of funding and staffing levels.
John Appleby, the chief economist at King’s Fund, says that there is no single reason for the increase in waiting time, but rather it was the ongoing squeeze on the NHS budget that was a key factor.
Although the government has ring-fenced the NHS budget from cuts, it is expected to find efficiencies of £20billion by 2014.
Patrick Oliver, expert medical negligence lawyer at Swain & Co Solicitors LLP, says, “A&E departments do not work in isolation to the rest of the hospital. We are hearing stories of issues with the number of beds, corridor treatment and people being turned away. The problem is not one area, but rather the NHS facing crisis as a whole.”
“The real danger is to people’s health and their safety. Amid all these statistics and failings, people are being failed and the chances of receiving substandard care are higher.”