Long A&E waits 'are on the rise'
Published: 31st May 2012 04:56:30
The proportion of patients facing long waits in A&E units in England has started rising, analysis suggests.
The King's Fund report showed 4.2% of patients waited longer than four hours from January to March, compared with 3.4% in the same period last year.
It means long A&E waits are at their highest level since 2004.
The think tank said it was a sign A&E departments are struggling, but ministers said long waits were within acceptable levels.
The health service is allowed to let up to 5% of the 21m patients who visit A&E units each year wait longer than four hours.
This is built into the system to give doctors the freedom to prioritise the sickest patients.
So the proportion of patients waiting for over four hours is still within the target.
What is more, that leeway has been increased from 2% in the past year.
The King's Fund, which used government figures for its analysis, accepted the rise seen over the last 12 months could be partly linked to prioritising of the most unwell.
But it also said it was indicative of the pressures in the health service - funding is being squeezed at a time when A&E units are having to treat more patients.
Professor John Appleby, the chief economist of the King's Fund, said the "steep rise" should be a concern for the government.
But Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the King's Fund was "wrong" to suggest it was a growing problem as the government had given hosptials greater flexibility over how quickly they treat patients.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Long A&E waits 'are on the rise' [Online] (Updated 31st May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1431953/Long-A-E-waits-are-on-the-rise [Accessed 8th Mar 2014]
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