A&E waiting times target in England missed every month for last two years

The NHS in England last met its target for A&E waiting times two years ago
The NHS in England last met its target for A&E waiting times two years ago
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The NHS in England last met its target for A&E waiting times two years ago, new figures show.

In July this year, 90.3% of patients spent four hours or less in A&E, missing NHS England's 95% target, which was last achieved in July 2015.

There were also 500,498 emergency admissions in July 2017, which is only the third time since records began that emergency admissions have topped half a million, and the first time July emergency admissions have done so.

A spokesman for NHS England said nine out of 10 patients were being admitted, treated, and transferred or discharged from A&E within four hours, which was "up on the May 2017 performance".

He said: "Reducing delays for patients awaiting discharge from hospital remains a key priority ahead of winter, and it is positive that NHS-related delays are lower this year than last."

The latest figures also show that in June, two of NHS England's eight cancer targets were not met either, including the 85% standard for 62 days between referral from a GP and first treatment.

Only 80.5% of patients began their first definitive treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral where cancer was suspected.

Lucy Schonegevel, public affairs manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "Timely access to treatment should be a standard part of anybody's cancer journey, but sadly these figures show that this isn't the case for thousands of people each month.

"Waiting to start treatment is often an incredibly difficult time, and should not go on a moment longer than is necessary."

The number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for consultant-led treatment, which the NHS says should be the maximum time it takes to start treating them, has also steadily increased.

Across the first six months of 2017, an average of 369,007 patients had been waiting longer than 18 weeks to start treatment after being referred by their GP.

This average figure for the same period in 2016 was 289,195 and in 2015 it was 208,489.

The NHS estimates that the total number of patients on waiting lists for treatment at the end of June 2017 may have been just over four million, factoring in the five trusts that did not submit any referral to treatment pathway information.

If this reckoning is correct, it would be the first time the number of people on waiting lists, including estimates for missing data, has exceeded four million since records began in August 2007.

Dr Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the latest figures were "shocking" and "another damning indictment of the crisis we are experiencing in the NHS".

He said: "I anticipate that today we will hear the usual defence rhetoric when the truth is that one of the richest nations on the planet is consistently failing to deliver care in line with its own standard."

The president of the Royal College of Surgeons, Professor Derek Alderson, said: "As our population increases and demand for the NHS grows, the waiting list will likely only get worse unless more action is taken.

"Bed space available for surgery continues to be under significant pressure and is a key reason why waiting lists are lengthening."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said NHS patients could not "afford another year of Theresa May".

"The crisis in social care is crippling our hospitals as more people have delayed discharges because there isn't proper care available for them outside," he said. "Labour would immediately put £2 billion into social care."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said "shameful underfunding" had put millions on waiting lists.

"Ministers must act now or the coming winter crisis will be even worse than the last one," he said.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison union, said NHS England patients were "clearly paying the price for Theresa May's time in Downing Street".

He said: "Any government that's serious about protecting the NHS would lift the pay cap, fund services properly and restore the nursing bursary."

A representative of the NHS Confederation, which represents health organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and NHS Employers said the current system was "unsustainable".

Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation and chief executive of NHS Employers, said: "We simply do not have the resources to deliver what the public now expects."

"(Politicians) should be more willing to fund health and social care, more supportive of radical change, more prepared to back services not buildings and more courageous in supporting new models of care that bring about better outcomes for patients."