Small wonder that Jeremy Hunt has abandoned reporting of the waiting-time performance of our NHS Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments until at least April next year.
The latest – and for now last – statistics on A&E performance have been released by the NHS for the month of January. They paint a bleak picture, as the ‘statistical commentary’ document that accompanies them makes clear:
The worst performance on record in the ‘type 1’ departments – what most of us would consider an A&E, as opposed to walk-in centres and other secondary types. Type 1 is also regarded as particularly worthy of comment by the NHS, since it’s the only type whose figures receive this kind of detailed mention in the commentary.
There were other all-time performance lows in the summary: waits exceeding four hours from the decision to admit a patient until the time of admission – and waits exceeding twelve hours were both also at a record high.
As the comments shown above note, A&E type 1 performance fell by 0.2% compared to December. This may not sound like much, but demand in December fell significantly as well, as the chart of all monthly performances shows:
January attendances fell to 1,257,252 – down from 1,290, 242 in December – a low not matched since August last year.
The worsening performance cannot be blamed on an increase in admissions tying up A&E resources either, as admissions also fell compared to December.
And remember – the government cancelled over 50,000 planned, ‘non-urgent’ operations last month in a measure that was supposed to free resources to cope with emergencies. How bad might last month have been – and how bad will next month be?
We won’t know.
It will no longer be reported.
A&E performance in the NHS is the worst it has been since records began – on a number of key indicators. Yet demand fell compared to the previous month.
An A&E that is struggling more than ever – in spite of lower demand – is a sign of an NHS in collapse because of persistent under-resourcing by a Tory government that has slashed the rate of NHS funding increases to a fraction of the historical norm.
No wonder the Tories have decided to stop measuring it for over a year – a tactic the Tories have used before when reports and statistics expose the damage their policies are causing – assuming they even restart in April 2019 when they have said they will.
The ‘safe in our hands’ promise that got the Tories into power in 2010 now looks like a sick joke – a ‘joke’ that is costing lives and inflicting misery on thousands of people waiting at A&E and on the tens of thousands who have had to wait in pain and fear because their planned operations have been cancelled.
People who don’t yet know how long they will have to wait for their procedures to be rescheduled, as experts believe it will take at least eighteen months for the NHS to get back on track – more than enough time for another winter crisis to happen.
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