Patients are having to wait longer in A and E following the government’s decision to relax the target, official figures show.
The number of patients being seen within four hours at A&E units has fallen to 96.5 per cent for the three months to December 2010. This is the lowest it has been since 2004-05.
The previous Labour government introduced a target for 98 per cent of patients to wait no longer than four hours in A&E. This target was relaxed to 95 per cent in June 2010 by the new Coalition government and is due to be scrapped altogether from April and be replaced by a series of other indicators.
The proportion of patients spending four hours or more in A&E has increased by almost two thirds over the past year.
There were 5.24 million attendances to all types of A&E departments between October and December 2010 and 3.52 per cent of patients were there more than four hours. During the same period in 2009 5.13 million people were treated in A and E and only 2.16 per cent of them waited more than four hours in A&E.