Emergency department waiting times target missed every month for last two years

The NHS in England last met its target for emergency department (ED) waiting times two years ago, new figures show.

The NHS in England last met its target for emergency department (ED) waiting times two years ago, new figures show.

Emergency admissions in July were among the highest on record.
 Picture: iStock

In July this year, the proportion of patients spending four hours or less in EDs was 90.3%, falling short of NHS England's 95% target, which was last achieved in July 2015.

There were 500,498 emergency admissions in July, which is only the third time since records began that emergency admissions have topped half a million, and the first time emergency admissions for the month of July have done so.

A spokesperson for NHS England said nine out of 10 patients were being admitted, treated and transferred or discharged from EDs within four hours, which was 'up on the May 2017 performance'.

Still a priority

'Reducing delays for patients awaiting discharge from hospital remains a key priority ahead of winter, and it is positive that NHS-related delays are lower this year than last,' the spokesperson said.

The latest figures also show that in June, two of NHS England's eight cancer targets were not met, including the 85% target of 62 days between referral from a GP and first treatment.

Only 80.5% of patients began their first definitive treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral where cancer was suspected.

Macmillan Cancer Support public affairs manager Lucy Schonegevel said: 'Timely access to treatment should be a standard part of anybody's cancer journey, but sadly these figures show that this isn't the case for thousands of people each month.

Steady rise

'Waiting to start treatment is often an incredibly difficult time, and should not go on a moment longer than is necessary.'

The number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for consultant-led treatment, which the NHS says should be the maximum time it takes to start treating them, has also steadily increased.

Across the first six months of 2017, an average of 369,007 patients had been waiting longer than 18 weeks to start treatment after being referred by their GP.

This average figure for the same period in 2016 was 289,195 and in 2015 it was 208,489.

NHS estimate

The NHS estimates that the total number of patients on waiting lists for treatment at the end of June 2017 may have been just over four million, factoring in the five trusts that did not submit any information on referrals to treatment pathways.

If this reckoning is correct, it will be the first time the number of people on waiting lists, including estimates for missing data, has exceeded four million since records began in August 2007.

Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the latest figures were shocking and 'another damning indictment of the crisis we are experiencing in the NHS'.

He said: 'I anticipate that today we will hear the usual defence rhetoric when the truth is that one of the richest nations on the planet is consistently failing to deliver care in line with its own standard.'

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