13:53 12 August 2012
Thousands of patients have been left to wait as long as 12 hours before being granted an emergency hospital bed, it has been revealed.
The figures are up a third in the first six months of the year, renewing concerns that the ill are being forced to wait in corridors or on trolleys. In all, nearly 67,000 were not tended to between four and 12 hours.
The official target for hospitals is that they should admit or discharge 95% of A&E patients within four hours.
However, in a study published in the Times, hospitals are under-performing. The worst performing trust – Surrey and Sussex Healthcare – saw more than one in five patients wait more than four hours for a bed.
Mike Clancy, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, was quoted by The Telegraph: “It’s a high pressure system and small changes in demand make a big change in waiting. We are asking wards to handle more patients faster.”
Health care journal HSJ analysed their data to uncover that Northampton General Hospital, Royal Free Hampstead, North Bristol and Wye Valley were among those with the poorest waiting times.
In Scotland, the amount of patients waiting upwards of 12 hours doubled since 2008, with targets missed in the cases of 882 people.
However, the figures have been called into question by Professor Matthew Cooke, national clinical director for urgent and emergency care at the Department of Health, who told The Telegraph: “This should not be referred to as waiting time as it is time that includes assessment and treatment.
"Once a decision to admit a patient to a ward from A&E is taken, they should be transferred as quickly as possible so that the best treatment for their condition can be given in the most appropriate setting.
"This is why we gave hospitals greater flexibility in allowing more patients who need to remain in A&E longer for vital tests, observation or treatment. For patients admitted to A&E via an ambulance, the average wait to be seen by a doctor is only 49 minutes.
"Modern A&E departments provide a more comprehensive service, with specialist expertise, than has historically been the case. This would mean some patients get the best treatment for them in the A&E department and so would spend longer there. This does not mean that they are still waiting."
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