The NHS is at risk of developing a “summer crisis” unless performance in accident and emergency (A&E) improves, according to the Labour party.
The opposition says that performance in accident and emergency departments is deteriorating, with figures showing a record number of patients attending hospital A&E departments in any one week and a record number being subsequently admitted to hospital wards.
The claimed impending crisis goes against the normal trend in A&E, which sees waiting times rising in the winter rather than the summer. Labour’s figures show that a total of 296,667 people went to A&E in the last week of May, with 77,745 of these going on to be admitted to hospital.
A&E departments have a target of four hours within arrival at hospital for seeing, treating, admitting or discharging 95 per cent of patients. However in the last four weeks the number of patients waiting more than this has been between 22,231 and 24,503 a week. This figure is double the number of patients waiting more than four hours in the summer three years ago.
In comparison, in November 2013, the number of patients waiting for longer than four hours was between 13,938 and 17,372 a week. A total of over 16,000 patients were left waiting on trolleys for a ward bed for up to 12 hours.
The president of the College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Clifford Mann, said: “These figures underline the need for significant action.”
Jamie Reed, shadow health minister, said: “People can see that the NHS is heading downhill under this government. A&Es are facing the worst year in a decade – there’s now a summer crisis that’s worse than the winter one.
“Ministers have taken social care support away from older people and made it harder for others to get a GP appointment. A&Es are struggling to deal with the extra pressure.”
The government says that it is attempting to recruit extra staff for A&E and has accused Labour of creating a crisis.