Number of Londoners waiting more than 12 hours in A&E rises 47% in a month

 (In Pictures via Getty Images)
(In Pictures via Getty Images)

The number of people waiting more than 12 hours to be admitted to A&E in London hospitals has jumped by 47 per cent in a month, according to new data.

Figures released by NHS England on Thursday lay bare the pressure facing hospitals in the capital as winter approaches, just a day after nurses voted to strike across the country.

The time that a patient waits for admission to A&E from the decision to be admitted is known as a "trolley wait".

Waits of more than five hours to be admitted to A&E can significantly increase the risks of a patient dying or becoming seriously unwell, according to research published by the Emergency Medicine Journal.

A total of 8,102 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in London in October from a decision to admit to actually being admitted, figures from NHS Digital showed. The figure has more than doubled in six months as hospitals struggle to discharge patients and free up capacity for A&E patients.

Nationally, 43,792 people endured a 12-hour wait in A&E in October - up 34 per cent on the previous month.

And a total of 150,922 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission in October, up from 131,861 the previous month – again, a new record.

The figures also showed 69.3 per cent of patients in England were seen within four hours of arrival at A&Es, the lowest figure on record.

The NHS’ operational standard states that at least 95 per cent of patients attending A&E should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, but this has not been met nationally since 2015.

Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation said: “‘These pressures are symptoms of the system-wide challenges facing health and social care services. Delays in discharging patients due to chronic workforce shortages and lack of bed capacity in health and social care cause long waits at the hospital front door.

“A full funded workforce plan to ensure health and social care services have the staff they need is key to breaking this vicious cycle and improving performance.”

Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said that standards were at “an unacceptably poor level for both patients and staff” and it was likely the situation would “deteriorate further over the winter months”.

“Morale for patients and staff is low, with little expectation of short-term improvement. All parts of the NHS are unquestionably struggling,” he said.

A spokesperson for NHS London said: “The NHS in London continues to see very high numbers of patients at A&E departments and with the service likely to face another busy winter we will be providing increased support to boost capacity over the coming months.

Londoners can also help us by making the most of services like 111 online or local pharmacies, and calling 999 if it is a life threatening emergency.”

Separate figures showed that the number of people in London waiting to start routine hospital treatment jumped to a record high on Thursday, with 998,127 people on a waiting list.

It marks a rise of 1,573 on the previous month and comprises around 14 per cent of England's overall waiting list.

Meanwhile, a total of 401,537 people in England had been waiting more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment at the end of September, NHS England said.

This is up from 387,257 at the end of August, and is the equivalent of around one in 18 people on the entire waiting list.

In other developments, the Royal College of Nursing on the Wednesday announced strike action across nine London hospitals in a dispute over pay, raising fears of further disruption to operations and appointments.

Emergency care will not be impacted, the union has said, but it is likely to impact thousands of operations.

The strikes will impact some of London’s largest NHS trusts, including Guys and St Thomas, Great Ormond Street Hospital, the Royal Marsden and Kings College Hospital. Some of the most serious cancer cases could still be treated, while urgent diagnostic procedures and assessments will be staffed if they are needed to gather data on potentially life-threatening conditions or those that could lead to permanent disability.

The RCN has demanded a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation, claiming that the Government’s offer of £1,400 is insufficient to cope with a surge in energy bills and rent hikes.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay yesterday claimed the RCN’s demands “aren’t reasonable or affordable”, adding: “Regrettably, this action will mean some patients will have their treatment delayed.”