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Figures collated by the BBC show that the number of long A&E waits has more than doubled over the past four years raising concerns over the quality of care provided and the impact of the increased waiting times for those in most need of urgent medical assistance.
The figures have revealed that more than 3million patients who visited A&E across the UK had to wait more than 4 hours in the past 12 months, an increase of 120% since 2012-2013 despite overall visit numbers increasing by a little over 7%.
It has also been reported that on average 10,184 patients every day waited between 30-60 minutes in an ambulance before they were seen in hospital.
Patients visiting A&E departments in the West Midlands and North West were twice as likely to experience waits of more than 4 hours when compared to those visiting A&E departments in the North East – the best performing region within England.
Commenting on the figures Dr Taj Hassan, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said the A&E system had been stretched to its very limits:
“Staff are working really hard. But we’ve reached a point where we cannot meet demand. Life threatening cases are prioritised. But a crowded emergency department adds risk. We get delays to assessment, pain relief and antibiotics.”
The latest figures allude to the fact that the overall level of patient care may be compromised with patients enduring longer waiting times and increased suffering. In such instances, there may be an increase in the number of patients pursuing a hospital negligence claim in order to seek compensation for their suffering.
Such is the extent of the problem it is anticipated that for the waiting time targets to be met an additional 20 A&Es staffed by 170 additional consultants would be needed.
With A&Es working at full or over capacity there is a fear that the overall level of patient care becomes compromised and the number of errors therefore increases with devastating effect.
The NHS have confirmed that they are working hard to reduce waiting times and to prepare for the forthcoming winter period however the latest figures form part of a worrying trend for medical negligence solicitors Blackwater Law who continue to receive enquiries about medical negligence claims from patients who have been impacted by medical errors.