Emergency waiting times show 'exceptional' pressure is now the norm

Problems in A&E are causing staff burnout, says RCN

March had the worst performance on record for England's accident and emergency departments.

The data highlights the extent of the pressures facing the acute sector, says the RCN.

Only four major hospitals met the government target that 95 per cent of patients should spend fewer than four hours in A&E, during the final quarter of 2015/16. 

RCN professional lead for acute, emergency and critical care Anna Crossley said: ‘These figures reflect the unfortunate reality of emergency care, and will come as no surprise to staff who are trying to give the best care to patients day and night. A&E departments are facing huge challenges in caring for so many patients, to the point that what used to be exceptional pressure is now becoming the norm.’

But she said the system was in danger of becoming completely overwhelmed. ‘Working in these pressured environments is causing burnout, and having a serious impact on the ability to recruit and retain nurses and doctors. This cannot fail to have an effect on patients.’

Commenting on the statistics, King’s Fund chief economist John Appleby said: ‘The figures also reveal that, taking 2015/16 as a whole, 92 per cent of patients spent less than four hours in urgent and emergency care departments, the worst performance since 2003/04. Particularly high levels of trolley waits and record levels of delays in discharging patients in 2015/16 may go some way to explaining this.

'Improving services not just inside but also outside hospital and investment in social care could help to reduce the numbers of people who need hospital care, as well as speeding their discharge home.’