A&E departments fail to hit waiting times for 16 months, NHS figures show

A&E units have failed to hit their four-hour waiting targets for 16 months in a row, increasing pressure on Theresa May to tackle the crisis engulfing the NHS.

The latest figures from NHS England show only 88.4% of patients admitted to A&E; were dealt with in four hours in November. Hospitals have not met the target of 95% since July 2015.

NHS England says doctors are unable to meet the four-hour time because poor social care means they cannot send patients home, causing a logjam in hospitals.

GPs are being drafted in to help discharge patients at some hospitals.

:: May weaponising the NHS all by herself

The figures show a 42% increase in delays in being able to discharge patients - and a 4.5% increase in A&E; attendances.

NHS England's national director Matthew Swindells said the problems with social care provision "affects their ability to quickly admit emergency A&E; patients".

"The NHS is working closely with local councils and community health services to enable older patients to get the support they need after a hospital stay, back home," he said.

He urged patients with non-urgent conditions to seek help from their GPs or NHS 111.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt came under fire earlier this week for attempting to water down A&E; waiting times after he suggested it should only apply to patients with "urgent health problems".

He told MPs in the House of Commons that it was time for an "honest discussion" with the public about how they used A&E; and called on people to stay away.

Mr Hunt said 30% of people using A&E; did not need emergency care.

:: May blasts Red Cross as 'irresponsible' on NHS

Despite doctors talking of "unprecedented" stresses on the NHS and the Red Cross saying the health service is facing a "humanitarian crisis", Mrs May has said the problems are "not unusual".

She has steadfastly refused to commit more cash to help tackle the problem and told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "We gave them (the NHS) more funding than they required so funding is now at record levels for the NHS."

However, on Wednesday, chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, told the Public Accounts Committee the Prime Minister was "stretching it to say the NHS got more than we asked for".

Mr Stevens added: "Over the next three years spending is going to be highly constrained and in 2018-19 NHS spending per person in England is going to go down."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused Mrs May of being "in denial" over the crisis facing the NHS as pressure mounts on her to address the issues and increase the funding of social care.

Under austerity measures, budgets for social care, which provides help for elderly and vulnerable people in their own homes, have been slashed.

It means people who might otherwise be looked after at home end up in A&E.;

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Despite the NHS being busier than ever the vast majority of people are seen quickly - 208,000 more people attending A&E; were seen within the four-hour standard in the past year compared to the year before.
 
"The NHS is facing increasing demand from our ageing population, so we are joining up health and social care to make sure patients are not in hospital unnecessarily, supported by an extra £10 billion per year by 2020 to fund the NHS's own plan to transform services for the future."

Local

Listening To Radio Win With Heart

Make Heart the soundtrack to your day and you could be a winner with great prizes up for grabs throughout the day.