The NHS waiting time target was set in mind that 95% of patients would be seen within four hours. Statistics show that between October and December the average was 92.6% of patients, the worst result since the target was set in 2004.
To clarify the ‘four hour target’, this measures the patients’ point of arrival to the moment they are discharged.
Across the UK the target is failing to be met alongside a rise in the number of hospitals declared with major incidents.
When a hospital declares a major incident this is not always in full public knowledge, but it can be a result of a large accident resulting in an increased number of patients requiring treatment.
Major incidents are typically declared by NHS trusts in the winter period when demand for A&E services soars. Hospitals are often under particular strain over the festive period. Since the summer, the NHS has not attained its 95% target in all but one week.
Dominic Graham, specialist Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Blackwater Law, has expressed his concern at the situation facing A&E departments up and down the country. Dominic said:
“When patients are left waiting to be seen in A&E departments for an extended period, this increases the risk of a patient receiving a delayed diagnosis. This can have a significant impact on the patient’s condition.
“In addition, when A&E staff, nurses and doctors are faced with extra pressures, it can lead to misdiagnosis and patients being wrongly sent home without the correct treatment or further analysis. Both of these examples can lead to clinical negligence and exacerbated health problems.”
Blackwater Law Clinical Negligence solicitors act for, and have secured compensation on behalf of, many clients that have been victims of clinical negligence, the majority of these having received a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis that has led to pain and suffering which would otherwise have been avoided.
For the exceptional pressures being faced by A&E departments, it means that extra staff can be called in to help with treatments and outpatient appointments, and routine operations can be cancelled if necessary.
The NHS missing its target by what appears to be just a small 2.4% is actually figurative to 133, 000 patients.
To combat this stress the UK is attempting to prepare by setting aside more money, England have added £700m to the budget in attempt to help the NHS this will pay for the equivalent of another 1,000 doctors, 2,000 nurses and another 2,000 community staff including social workers and physio experts.
Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also released additional millions of pounds to speed up handovers between paramedics and A&E teams, discharge proceedings and increase capacity.
One member of NHS staff interviewed , by the BBC, stated that upon arriving on the first working Monday in January, a typically busy day, however every ward was already full with patients in beds and an additional 18 patients on beds in the emergency area due to a lack of space in the wards, as shocking.
He indicated that upon turning the emergency department into a ward it becomes increasingly difficult for the emergency department to function as just that.
As a result of being so overwhelmed the concerned hospital was on the verge of closing the doors to even emergency ambulances. Fortunately this was a last resort and it wasn’t required largely down to Scarborough Hospital deputy chief executive Mike Proctor deciding that this ‘black alert’ measure would simply pass the problem onto other hospitals in the region suffering from similar problems.
Nonetheless this draws attention to the purpose of A&E in order that the general public can make best use of the services on offer. For example using chemists, GPs, and walk in centres as other alternatives for minor treatments where appropriate, instead of A&E.