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Winter pressures: EDs cannot go back to pre-COVID overcrowding and long waits, says RCEM

Royal College of Emergency Medicine warns of ‘worrying signs’ as NHS data reveals emergency department four-hour wait targets beginning to slip as we head into winter

Royal College of Emergency Medicine warns of worrying signs as NHS England reveals emergency department four-hour wait targets beginning to slip as we head into winter

Englands four-hour performance target at emergency departments (EDs) is down by 6% since May.

NHS England figures revealed that in May, 93.5% of EDs reached the four-hour waiting target. However, in September this figure had fallen to 87.3%.

Cannot go back to status quo of crowded emergency departments and long waits

Commenting on the NHS data, the Royal College of Emergency Medicines president Katherine Henderson said: While performance is not near its worst, we are seeing extremely worrying signs as we head into winter.

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Royal College of Emergency Medicine warns of ‘worrying signs’ as NHS England reveals emergency department four-hour wait targets beginning to slip as we head into winter

A young woman waits to be seen by nursing staff in a near-empty hospital emergency department during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic
Picture: iStock

England’s four-hour performance target at emergency departments (EDs) is down by 6% since May.

NHS England figures revealed that in May, 93.5% of EDs reached the four-hour waiting target. However, in September this figure had fallen to 87.3%.

Cannot go back to status quo of crowded emergency departments and long waits

Commenting on the NHS data, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s president Katherine Henderson said: ‘While performance is not near its worst, we are seeing extremely worrying signs as we head into winter.

Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Medicine
Katherine Henderson

‘Our EDs must be safe places for our most vulnerable patients, and we cannot go back to the status quo of crowded departments and long waits.’

NHS England's COVID-19 Hospital Activity revealed that beds occupied by patients with COVID-19 has increased – on 3 September there were 468 occupied beds, but by 1 October this figure stood at 2,069.

NHS figures show increasing pressures for nursing staff

COVID-19 patients needing to be ventilated has also increased. On 3 September, there were 58 patients needing this treatment, however, on 1 October this figure stood at 285.

RCN director for England Mike Adams said: ‘The figures show exactly the kind of pressures nursing staff see every day.

‘With a second COVID wave and winter around the corner, this pressure is going to increase.’

Mr Adams added that there were increasing concerns about workforce stress and staffing levels.

View our COVID-19 resources centre


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