An NHS hospital trust in east London has the worst waiting times for patients in A&E in England, it has emerged.
More than 31 per cent of people waited in excess of 12 hours in the A&E departments of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust in February, according to the first figures of their kind.
New data from NHS England reveals the true extent of A&E pressures across the nation, with 125,505 people – or 10.6 per cent of nearly 1.2 million patients – waiting more than 12 hours before being admitted, transferred or discharged in February.
This more than doubles previous estimates of the number of people facing a wait in A&E of 12 hours or more.
Elsewhere, NHS England figures showed the overall waiting list for routine treatment reached a record high, leaving health experts concerned that longer waits “are being normalised”.
After Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS trust, the next worst-performing trusts were East Kent and Blackpool NHS trusts, where the figures were 25.1 per cent and 24.7 per cent respectively.
North Bristol and Royal Berkshire NHS trusts, recording 1.3 per cent, and Guy’s & St Thomas’ in London, recording 1.1 per cent respectively, were the best performing trusts, aside from Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. Only 0.6 per cent of patients waited more than 12 hours in the latter two.
The region with the worst waits was the north-west, where 13.5 per cent of A&E patients waited more than 12 hours, followed by London at 11.8 per cent and the Midlands at 11.7 per cent.
The new 12-hour wait figures comes after NHS England and the Government pledged to release data about the wait patients face from the moment they arrive in A&E as part of the recovery plan for urgent and emergency care services.
The worst hospitals for A&E waits
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust – 31.3 per cent
East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust – 25.1 per cent
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 24.7 per cent
University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust – 24.4 per cent
NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Integrated Care Board – 21.6 per cent
The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust – 21.6 per cent
NHS Cornwall and The Isles Of Scilly Integrated Care Board – 20.5 per cent
Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust – 20.5 per cent
Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust – 19.7 per cent
Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 19.3 per cent
York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 18.8 per cent
St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust – 18.6 per cent
Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – 18.3 per cent
Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – 18 per cent
Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – 17.7 per cent
Wye Valley NHS Trust – 17.4 per cent
NHS Humber and North Yorkshire Integrated Care Board – 16.6 per cent
London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust – 16.6 per cent
King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – 16.4 per cent
University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust – 16.3 per cent
Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust – 16.3 per cent
Previously, figures were only available for people waiting more than 12 hours in A&E from a decision to admit to actually being admitted. Under this metric, 39,671 waited more than 12 hours in March, up 13 per cent from 34,976 in February but below the record 54,532 in December 2022.
NHS waiting times have been further threatened this week after tens of thousands of junior doctors started a four-day strike over pay, with fears an estimated 350,000 appointments will need to be rescheduled.
The NHS England figures also show the number of people waiting to start routine hospital treatment rose to a new high, increasing from 7.21 million in January to 7.22 million at the end of February.
But times for the longest waits are improving amid efforts to clear the backlog of appointments. It is unclear whether the Government and NHS England will achieve their goal of clearing all waits of more than 18 months by April 2023 where possible.
The number of people waiting more than a year-and-a-half for routine hospital treatment dropped from 45,631 in January to 29,778 in February – a month-on-month fall of 35 per cent.
Waits of more than 52 weeks are down from 379,245 in January to 362,498 in February. The target for eliminating them completely is March 2025.
NHS England also revealed the average response time in March for ambulances dealing with the most urgent incidents was eight minutes and 49 seconds.
This is an increase from eight minutes and 30 seconds in February. The target is seven minutes.
The figures coincide with a two-day strike by nurses in February and three days of localised strikes by ambulance workers later in the month.
Jessica Morris, a fellow at the independent health think-tank Nuffield Trust, said: “Despite some positive progress, the target to eliminate waits of more than 18 months for planned treatment by April remains difficult to meet.
“While the NHS is focusing on clearing those longest waits, the average waiting time for treatment is getting worse and worse, sitting at 14½ weeks, compared to 7½ weeks just before the pandemic. As the overall waiting list continues to reach record levels, longer waits are being normalised. There is also a risk that the people who need treatment most urgently are not being effectively prioritised and this could lead to worsening conditions and a greater need for care further down the line.”
Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, the membership organisation for NHS trusts in England, said the new data on A&E waits was “a real concern” that reflects “the incredible demand-driven pressures on trusts”. She said: “The NHS is under severe and unsustainable pressure. Persistent challenges across urgent care are hindering progress on ambulance response times and A&E waits.
“Trust leaders are desperately awaiting a long-term fully funded workforce plan, which should start to address staff shortages, exhaustion and burnout.”
Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said pressure on the service continues to be “relentless”.
She said: “The figures for 12-hour A&E waits from arrival show that too many patients are having to wait longer than NHS leaders would want or expect.
“This is an ongoing priority for NHS leaders and their teams and has been addressed following the steps taken in the recent urgent and emergency care recovery plan.”