A&E units treat record number of patients as winter bites

By Jemma Crew, PA Health and Science Correspondent

The NHS experienced its busiest month on record in December with an unprecedented number of A&E attendances and ambulance call-outs.

Attendances at A&E throughout 2019 were up almost 5% on 2018, and rose 14.2% within three years, according to NHS England.

Its monthly performance statistics show there were 2,181,024 attendances in December – a 6.5% rise from the same time the previous year.

This resulted in 4,307 extra attendances per day – the highest number on record.

(PA Graphics)

Ambulances attended 790,294 incidents in December, which also made it the busiest month on record and it was a 5.3% increase from the same month the previous year.

Some 10,000 of these call-outs were to the most serious, life-threatening cases – again the highest number recorded in a month and a rise of 16.6% from the previous year.

Overall in 2019, there were 1.2 million more attendances at A&Es than in 2018 – a 4.8% rise.

The figures also show almost 100,000 patients had to wait more than four hours for a bed in December.

Some 98,452 patients waited more than four hours to be admitted – 64.6% higher than December 2018.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “A&Es across the country are currently very busy – in 2019 we treated over a million more patients in our A&Es than the previous year.

NHS chiefs urged people to get their flu jabs, warning the virus has struck early this winter (PA)

“We have got more hospital beds open than last winter, but flu has come early and is around twice as high as this time last year.

“For the public there is still time to get your flu jab, and remember to use the free NHS 111 phone and online service and your local pharmacist.

“The continued increase in people’s need for care underlines the need for more beds and staff across hospital and community services, which is why the Government’s commitment to increase the number of nurses by 50,000 and invest in new and expanded facilities will be crucial over the coming years.”