A&E waiting times on the rise as number of patients waiting more than four hours hits eight-year peak
A third of patients spent more than four hours in A&E, compared to 23 per cent in 2004Nearly a quarter of those who arrived by ambulance had to wait more than 15 minutes to be transferred
But patients happy with standards of care and hygiene
15:44 GMT, 6 December 2012
Waiting times in accident and emergency departments are getting longer, according to figures released today by the healthcare regulator.
A major report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that a third of patients spent more than four hours in A&E, compared to 23 per cent in 2004, it said.
In addition, 33 per cent of patients reported waiting more than half an hour before they were seen by a doctor or a nurse – up from 24 per cent in 2004.
A third of patients spent more than four hours in A&E, compared to 23 per cent in 2004, a new report has revealed
The survey of 46,000 patients found that nearly a quarter of those who arrived by ambulance had to wait more than 15 minutes with the ambulance crew for their care to be transferred to A&E staff. Five per cent had to wait more than an hour.
Government targets say no more than 5 per cent of patients should breach the four-hour limit.
The research, conducted across 147 NHS trusts with major accident and emergency departments, also found that 59 per cent of people were not told how long they would have to wait to be examined, up three percent from 2004.
Furthermore, almost half of patients who were prescribed medicines said they were not warned about possible side-effects.
However, most people said they still had confidence and trust in the health professionals who treated them.
Perceptions of the cleanliness of A&E units have also substantially improved from previous surveys, the CQC said.
David Behan, CQC chief executive, said: 'The important issue is that people who need to be treated urgently do not have to wait. It is disappointing, therefore, that people have said they have to wait longer to be treated than four years ago.
Meeting targets and ticking boxes does not ensure good patient care, health minister Dan Poulter warned
'People should be seen, diagnosed, treated and admitted or discharged as quickly as possible and this is an issue that trusts need to urgently tackle.
'It is however encouraging to see people's perceptions of trust in clinicians and cleanliness continuing to be high and more people than ever saying that they have enough privacy when discussing conditions with receptionists.'
Health minister Dan Poulter said:
'Rightly, the NHS has moved away from the narrow focus on the four-hour
waiting standard which sometimes forced A&E staff to make a broken
toe as much of a priority as a patient with potentially life-threatening
targets and ticking boxes does not ensure good patient care, and we are
putting doctors and nurses in charge of making clinical decisions to
ensure that the most sick patients in A&E are the highest priority.'
But Christina McAnea, head of health at union Unison, said: 'This survey shows that Tory claims that they are protecting our health service are worthless.
'All across the country, nurses and health workers are losing their jobs, wards are closing and now we know that A&E waiting times are rising – this is deeply worrying. It means that patients are suffering.
'Meanwhile, billions are being wasted on a chaotic and deeply unpopular top-down re-organisation of our health service. This money should be spent on caring for patients.
'The Government needs to start listening to the real health experts – health workers – and take action to protect the NHS before it is too late. This rise in A&E waiting times is just the tip of the iceberg.'
In a separate report, the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations, said that health commissioners should take a 'zero tolerance' approach to ambulance handover delays.
Jo Webber, interim director of policy, said: 'The vast majority of patient hand-overs between ambulance crews and hospital staff take place within minutes, but with nearly five million emergency ambulance journeys each year – and nine out of 10 of these resulting in patients transported to an emergency department – it is right that the whole service looks at ways it can improve in this area.
'Any delay in handing over a patient at an emergency department is not good for the patient, means a delay in getting that ambulance back out on the road to attend to another patient, and that means an unnecessary cost for the NHS as a whole.'