The British Medical Association (BMA) has published a new analysis of NHS England performance data ahead of winter and warns that emergency care services in England are now suffering a “year-round crisis"
The analysis has shown that staff working in emergency departments faced tougher demand on services and staff this summer than during five of the last eight winters, while funding stagnated and capital investment in buildings and technology was limited.
The figures are based on NHS England data and show that during the three summer months of 2018 (July to September), more than 125,000 patients were stranded on trolleys for more than four hours – a figure greater than every winter, January to March, between 2011 and 2015.
BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said the figures showed the long-term underfunding of emergency care services in England was biting hard on the front line during a time when demand on services has rocketed.
He said: ‘It is shocking that the number of patients waiting more than four hours for treatment on trolleys has increased seven-fold during the winter months since 2011, with almost 200,000 more patients left in this appalling situation."
The study examined recently published NHS England data that shows that for the summer months a smaller proportion of patients – 89.3% – were seen within four hours in A&E than in any of the winters between 2011 and 2015. There were more emergency admissions between July and September than any of the previous winter or summer periods, going back seven years.
London emergency medicine consultant Simon Walsh said: ‘Behind these figures lie real stories of misery. Tens of thousands of patients are being left in crowded, cramped corridors, waiting for treatment while others are having to endure longer waits to even see a doctor or nurse. We cannot and should not allow this appalling state of affairs to continue.
‘The recent budget showed signs that the Government is beginning to understand that extra investment is needed. But this analysis shows the NHS needs this funding urgently."
The director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, Miriam Deakin, added: “The BMA is right to flag the likelihood that a challenging winter season lies ahead for trusts and their local partners, and for staff and patients. Many improvements have been put in place this year to prepare trusts and their staff for the pressures that winter will inevitably bring. But with performance against key standards in a worse position than last year, and following an exceptionally busy summer, on balance, trusts fear this coming winter will be more difficult than the last."