Following the release today of NHS performance data for December, which showed 79.8% of patients spent less than four hours in A&E, Dr Susan Crossland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said:
“We can honestly say that acute care is facing pressures the like of which we have never seen and the huge jump in patients waiting more than 12 hours should be of serious concern to the government.
“Almost 100,000 patients waited more than four hours, almost double that of last month. For the first time, the standard was met for under 80% of patients and the inexorable decline in trusts meeting the standard adds more pressure onto the morale of healthcare professional struggling to do their very best for patients.
“The target of 95% for the standard was last met in July 2015. There has been too little support, too late and the Society calls on central government to urgently tackle the shortage of beds, the lack of staff and the social care system so that hospital staff can work in a safe and sustainable system, providing world class treatment to those who need it.“
Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, added: “This data shows just what a struggle the NHS faces to meet long-standing targets under ever-increasing demand across the board but hides the fact staff are on their knees trying to keep patients safe.
“Sadly, the failure to meet the access targets for years now seems to have been ‘normalised’ and appears to be routinely ignored or, perhaps worse, minor parts of the data spun for any positive effect that can be gained.
“The really depressing fact is that we have been warning the government and NHS leaders that this is happening time after time and feel our concerns have been largely ignored or marginalised.
“However, we make no apologies in saying that action is needed now to help a system in need rather than trumpeting headlines on projects that might help in 30 years’ time but drain funding away from the frontline.”