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Record numbers leaving A&E without treatment

Doctors warn of another sign that the system is 'overstretched'

Mark Gould

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Doctors says that new statistics,* which reveal that record numbers of patients are leaving A&E units before receiving any treatment, are a sign that hospitals are dangerously overstretched.

Figures for September this year, released by NHS Digital, reveal that 53,000 patients left A&E departments without treatment, a rise of 24% compared with September last year.

The figures also show that, in September 2016, 137,164 patients (8.1% of 1.6 million attendances) returned to A&E units in "an unplanned way" compared with 119,856 in the same month last year.

The time taken for patients to commence treatment in A&E has risen in the last year, from 55 to 59 minutes - a 7% increase. In September last year, 95% of all A&E cases left the unit within five hours 53 minutes of arrival. This September, 95% left within six hours 30 minutes.

BMA council chair Dr Mark Porter said: “It is clear from these figures that patients are being let down by an overstretched system. The delays that patients are facing, for the care they need, have almost become the norm and this is unacceptable.”

Dr Porter said that demand is now so great that hospitals are experiencing "a year round crisis".

"Front-line staff are under serious pressure and are working flat-out, but the system can’t cope with the number of patients needing to move through acute care, as the entire system is congested. The entire health and social care system needs more capacity, including in accident and emergency departments, general practice and social and community care,” he said.

Dr Porter called on the government to resolve the long-term funding, capacity and recruitment issues facing the system as a whole, year in, year out, and particularly during the winter months.

The Department of Health said that many patients did not need to go to A&E. "We know that four out of 10 patients going to A&E don't need to be there. The NHS is better prepared for winter than ever before, funded by £400 million to cope with the extra pressure, and is performing well despite being busy," a spokesman said.

* Provisional Accident and Emergency Quality Indicators - England, by provider for September 2016. NHS Digital, December 2016

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