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January A&E stats are a tale of highs and lows

The A&E Attendances and Emergency Admissions figures published today (February 14) for January 2019 reveal the worst performance on record.


Even more Trusts are failing to meet the four-hour 95% standard, but this is in the face of further rises in the number of attendances at A&E and emergency admissions. 


The total number of attendances in January 2019 was 2,112,000, an increase of 5.6% on the same month last year. Emergency admissions were up by 7.2% on the same month last year, and at 564,000 are the highest number on record.


Just 84.4% of patients were seen within four hours in all A&E departments – the lowest since this collection began. There were 83,519 four-hour delays from decision to admit to admission, which compares to 81,231 in the same month last year, and is the highest number since this collection began. 


Responding to these figures, John Appleby, Chief Economist Professor at Nuffield Trust, says: “Today’s figures remind us that the NHS is fighting a losing battle in trying to meet its commitments to provide timely health care in the face of the pressure it is under. There is a risk that we lose sight of these problems as Brexit distracts us, or become numbed as we forget the last time targets were met. But this situation has a serious impact on hundreds of thousands of patients, and will be demoralising for many staff.


“The proportion of patients spending more than four hours in A&E has risen to 15.6% in January - the highest ever in this set of data. It looks like the gap between the service’s capacity and the care we need from it is widening. Only two major emergency departments in England met the four-hour target and attendances have risen by an astonishing 85,000 compared with January last year, increasing through the winter when they would usually fall. Last year there was widespread concern as we saw trolley waits balloon, yet today’s figures show an even higher level.


“In planned care, the proportion of people waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment is at its highest level for ten years. This month also marks three years since the service last met the target for patients urgently referred with cancer to start treatment within two months.”