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A&Es struggle to keep up as national waiting time performance hits new low

PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 November 2019

Along with hospitals across England, east London's A&Es are struggling to meet targets to help the most injured patients. Picture: PA Images / Lynne Cameron.

Along with hospitals across England, east London's A&Es are struggling to meet targets to help the most injured patients. Picture: PA Images / Lynne Cameron.

PA Wire/PA Images

East London's A&E departments are struggling to keep up with demand as national waiting times hit their worst level since 2011.

Only 74.5 per cent of people who visited England's A&Es with major injuries were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, according to NHS figures. That's far below the 95pc target.

But east London's hospitals were even worse.

Barts Health, one of the largest and busiest trusts in the country, serves Newham and Tower Hamlets. It saw a four-hour rate of 72.5 per cent at its A&E departments for its most seriously ill patients. Its overall A&E rate was 82.7pc.

Patients who rely on Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals (BHRUT) were faced with even more dire conditions.

Of the trusts that gave a rate, it was the third worst in England: just over half of people with major injuries (53pc) were seen within four hours. Its overall A&E rate was better, but still below target at 73pc.

"The NHS in England is desperately struggling to stay afloat," said Dr Rebecca Fisher, a GP and senior policy fellow at the Health Foundation charity.

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"In October, 320,000 people [in England] waited over the four hour target to be seen in A&E."

"Staff work incredibly hard under increasing pressure, but ultimately can't protect patients from feeling the effects."

She urged the next government to invest in public services and fix NHS understaffing and underinvestment.

BHRUT's chief operating officer Shelagh Smith defended its performance in the "extreme pressure" the NHS is under.

She said: "As well as seeing a high volume of patients in our emergency departments, the patients coming to us are sicker and require more intensive treatment, which can therefore take longer. In October, almost 60 per cent of our patients fell into this type one category.

"Our priority is to provide our patients with safe, high quality care, as quickly as possible."

A spokeswoman for Barts Health said: "We treat some of the most seriously ill patients. In October we had more attendances at our emergency departments than any other trust in England.

"Our teams work exceptionally hard to provide the best possible care."

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