New NHS England figures released today show that the Government’s A&E waiting times targets have now been missed week-on-week for an entire year. The Coalition set a target of treating 95% of A&E patients within four hours of arrival – and they’ve failed to achieve that for the last 52 consecutive weeks. Last week, as many as 20% of patients could have waited longer than that, suggesting that the current crisis is nowhere near close to over.
As one of Labour’s shadow health ministers, Jamie Reed, pointed out on LabourList last month, the number of people waiting over four hours in A&E has actually doubled since the Tories came to power. Despite this, it was six months after being appointed Health Secretary before Jeremy Hunt finally visited an A&E unit.
In reaction to today’s figures, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said:
“This sustained slump in A&E simply cannot be ignored by David Cameron any longer. The NHS is heading towards the rocks and we urgently need some honesty from the Prime Minister about how he plans to turn it around.
“David Cameron’s only response to date has been to try to redefine his target and spin his way out of trouble. Such self-serving complacency is dangerous for patients and cannot continue. Cameron must face up to the scale of the challenge facing A&E and come up with credible proposals to ease the pressure.
“The crisis in A&E is a problem of this Government’s making. It has got harder for people to get a GP appointment while social care has been cut to the bone. The result is record numbers coming through A&E and thousands of older people trapped in hospital. The pressure is backing up through A&E, ambulance response times are getting worse and waiting lists at a six-year high.
“If this problem is not addressed now, it will drag down the rest of the NHS. The NHS cannot afford another year of living dangerously like the one we have just had. People can see how quickly the NHS is heading downhill and they are becoming increasingly worried about it. It explains why you can’t trust David Cameron with the NHS.”