The NHS in England has recorded its worst ever performance for A&E waiting times as warnings ring out of “one of the bleakest winters” in the health service’s history.
In news which could derail Boris Johnson’s winter election campaign, official figures for October show one in six patients waited longer than four hours in A&E.
Just 83.6% of patients arriving at A&E were treated or admitted in four hours, according to the figures from NHS England. This sees the health service falling well short of its target of 95% patients seen within four hours.
It’s official - the Tories have pushed our NHS into crisis:— Jonathan Ashworth (@JonAshworth) November 14, 2019
🤒4.4 million people waiting to start treatment, ⬆ on 2018
🏥A&E performance worst on record with 1 in 4 people waiting more than 4 hours in Type 1 A&Es
🕑 Almost 81,000 people waiting more on trolleys. https://t.co/2ILjnHwiZv
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, accused the Conservatives of having “ushered in the worst NHS crisis on record” as he demanded Johnson apologise to patients.
He said: “Under Boris Johnson the NHS is in crisis and we’re heading for a winter of abject misery for patients.
“Our A&Es are overwhelmed, more so than ever. In every community there’s an ever growing queue of people waiting for treatment.
“The Tories spent a decade cutting over 15,000 beds. Now they should apologise to every patient languishing on a trolley and waiting longer for treatment.”
Lib Dem health spokeswoman Luciana Berger, meanwhile, said it was a “damning indictment of the Conservative’s dismal record on the NHS”, adding: “It is shameful that patients are being abandoned for hours waiting for treatment in A&E or waiting for months in pain for routine operations.”
The Society for Acute Medicine has warned A&E care in the NHS is “imploding” - before the expected winter crisis hits - and there are as yet no credible plans from any parties to deal with it.
“These figures are truly worrying as we haven’t even reached the ‘traditional’ winter period yet,” said Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of SAM.
He said hospitals were under “intense pressure” with many at full capacity, yet politicians were “avoiding the elephant in the room”.
“When you look at some of the major issues of the moment - Brexit, climate change and healthcare - it is fair game for anyone to ask just what has been going on behind the scenes these last few years.”
NHS Trusts With Worst A&E Waiting Times
(% of A&E patients seen within 4 hours)
- Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Trust – 62.9%
- United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust – 64.2%
- Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust – 64.4%
- University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust – 66%
- Stockport NHS Foundation Trust – 66.8%
Nuffield Trust chief economist, professor John Appleby described the new figures as “an unprecedented slump”, adding: “These figures show the next government will immediately be faced with one of the bleakest winters in the NHS’s history.
“We have many months to go until seasonal pressures really hit the NHS, but October has already seen an unprecedented slump with performance against the main A&E target worse than ever.”
Based on current trends the one in six figure will grow to one in five, Appleby warned, adding: “Meanwhile the number of people waiting on trolleys in corridors because no beds are available has already hit 80,000 – something we have only seen before in the very coldest part of the year.
“If this trend keeps going, I fear we could see 100,000 people stuck on trolleys this coming January.
“These are not acceptable waits, both for people who need urgent help and for the staff who desperately want to treat them. As the election promises roll in, we should be under no illusion about the money, staff and time it will take to turn this situation around.”
Parties are competing over spending and who can save the struggling NHS from disaster ahead of the December 12 general election.
Labour has promised a £26bn real-terms funding boost for the NHS, which is £6bn more than what the Conservatives promised last year.
But the Conservatives have countered that Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s plan to introduce a four-day week, something Labour says it will phase in over 10 years, could actually amount to a cut in funding.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the figures made the case for a Boris Johnson government.
He said: “These figures show just how important it is that we stop Jeremy Corbyn. We are giving the biggest cash boost ever to our NHS, but Corbyn’s chaotic policies will put that at risk. The last thing our NHS can afford is Labour’s plans for a four-day week and uncontrolled and unlimited immigration.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.