NHS trusts in England failed to meet their accident and emergency (A&E) waiting time target in 2014-15 for the first time in more than a decade.
The target is for 95% of patients arriving at A&E to be seen and either admitted, discharged or transferred within four hours.
But while the NHS as a whole just about met this target over the summer, it fell well short in autumn and winter when flu and other seasonal illnesses add to pressure on hospitals.
Only 91.8% of patients were dealt with within the target time from January to March, down from 92.6% in the October to December period.
If we look only at major A&E departments, the picture is worse still with the figure falling to around 88% in winter.
That means one in eight A&E patients waited for more than four hours.
Target culture within the NHS has sometimes been controversial but these figures matter for a number of reasons:
They mean that 440,000 people were left waiting for longer than four hours to be treated at hospital in the first three months of this year alone – the highest figure since 2003.
Too many patients suffer the indignity and discomfort of long periods on hospital trolleys after being told they will be admitted - more than 114,000 people spent more than four hours on a trolley waiting for a bed from January to March.
They are indicative of a health care system that is stretched to its limits in a way that may increase the risk of patients falling victim to medical negligence
If negligence by a medical professional or NHS organisation results in harm to a patient, it may be possible to claim compensation with specialist legal advice of the kind that www.mistreatment.com specialises in providing.
Errors in A&E may arise due to a failure to assess patients in a timely manner due to long queues, delays in carrying out examinations, tests and scans, rushed treatment, administrative errors or failure to diagnose medical conditions needing urgent care.
On occasions, A&E staff may also fail to arrange referrals to hospital departments or to inform GPs regarding the patient’s visit to A&E.
Mistreatment.com can provide free support and guidance from specialist medical negligence solicitors and medical advisors and inform you about the relevant complaints departments and procedures.
Last year there were a record 22.4 million attendances at A&E departments.
Many hospitals were effectively full for much of the winter and some resorted to asking patients with non-urgent needs to stay away from A&E.
According to John Appleby, chief economist of the King’s Fund health think-tank, many hospitals may have decided that dealing with 90% of A&E patients - rather than the official 95% target – was good enough.
Furthermore, the King’s Fund has warned that this year is likely to be even worse for the NHS than last year due to the continued deterioration in finances and high levels of concern about staff morale.
All of this sends an alarming message about the ability of A&E departments to cope with future surges in demand for treatment, something they need to be prepared for as the UK population continues to grow and to age.