As the NHS enters yet another anticipated ‘winter crisis’, public attention will turn to Accident and emergency (A&E) waiting times as a key indicator of the condition of the NHS and its ability under the Tories to provide the care the UK public needs.
Last winter was a disaster for England’s A&E departments, with performance falling to its lowest since the Tories took over in 2010 – after seven years of persistent decline:
The Tories traditionally try to explain away this continuing drop in performance by pointing to increased demand as the cause – as if the problem is caused by people needing treatment rather than by a failure to properly resource the service.
But new figures have pulled even that threadbare rug from under their feet.
The latest NHS England figures show that achievement of the four-hour waiting-time target in type 1 A&Es (what most of us would think of as a full ’emergency room’ service) over the twelve months to November this year fell – again – compared to the preceding twelve months: from 84.4% to 83.6%.
However, type 1 admissions also fell – from 15.36 million to 15.33m.
Jeremy Hunt therfore cannot blame admissions for increased pressures on our major A&Es this year and for yet another decline in performance.
Including other types of A&E makes little difference, as overall admissions are flatlining.
A senior Labour source said:
The government has overseen the closure or downgrade of 100 NHS Walk-in Centres and more than 16,000 NHS beds have been cut from our NHS, reducing the capacity of the NHS by 6million bed spaces a year. The government needs to come clean on the impact of these cuts on A&Es at our major hospitals.
Will Jeremy Hunt try to excuse his failure to safeguard our NHS – A&E is widely considered a barometer for the overall health of the service – by blaming demand again? If so, it will be hard to avoid the conclusion that he is misleading the public in the most blatant way.
So what will be his excuse this year?
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