A&E waiting times: are they getting longer?

Published: 15th Nov 2017

In brief

Claim

1,800 more patients are seen within the four hour A&E standard every single day compared to 2010.

Conclusion

Correct, comparing attendances in 2009/10 with 2016/17. More people are also waiting more than four hours. As a proportion of all attendances fewer patients are seen within four hours.

 

The number of people waiting more than four hours in A&E has gone up by 557% since 2010.

 

That’s not quite correct. The number of attendances where patients waited more than four hours in A&E has gone up 334% since 2010. The 557% is referring to patients with an admission approved who are waiting to be admitted.

Claim 1 of 2

“The number of people waiting more than four hours in A&E has gone up by 557% since 2010.”

Jeremy Corbyn, 15 November 2017

“On the NHS, can we say, there are 1,800 more patients seen within the four hour A&E standard every single day, compared to 2010.”

Theresa May, 15 November 2017

Overall the number of attendances at A&E where the patient was seen within four hours has increased since 2009/10—so has the overall number going to Accident and Emergency and the number not being seen within four hours. Demand for these services has generally been increasing.

On the specific 557% increase, Mr Corbyn’s claim isn’t correct for all A&E attendances. It refers to a specific group of A&E attendances that have increased by a greater amount than all attendances at A&E (although both have increased).

Mrs May’s claim is correct, but as a proportion of all attendances fewer patients are being seen within four hours compared to 2010.

NHS England’s A&E waiting time target (for 95% of attendances to be seen within four hours) hasn’t been met since July 2015.

Waits of more than four hours between decision to admit and admission have increased by 557%

The number of attendances at A&E where the patient had to wait more than four hours in—between first arriving and either being admitted to hospital, transferred or discharged—has gone up by 334%. That’s looking at attendances across NHS England between October 2010 and October 2017.

Mr Corbyn’s office told us he was referring to the number of attendances where people had a wait of more than four hours between the decision to admit them to hospital from A&E and actually being admitted. This figure has gone up by 557% since October 2010.

There were around 6,900 attendances in October 2010 that fell into this category. By October 2017 there were 45,500.

45,500 “attendances” doesn’t necessarily mean that many individual people. If someone ends up in A&E twice within a month, for example, then they would be counted twice.

There are 1,800 more people being seen within four hours each day compared to 2010 and there are also more people being seen over four hours

Mrs May was speaking about the number of attendances where patients waited less than four hours between arriving in A&E and the decision being taken to either admit, discharge or transfer them. Her claim is correct if you compare 2016/17 with 2009/10.

There were around 20.2 million A&E attendances in England within the four hour target in 2009/10, the year before the Coalition government came to power. By 2016/17 there were about 20.8 million—an increase of 664,000 or about 1,800 per day.

By the same measure, 6,000 more attendances per day were seen in more than four hours.

A&Es have a target to see 95% of attendances within four hours. This was last met in 2013/14 (if you look at a whole year) or in July 2015 (if you look at individual months).

Since 2010/11 the number of A&E attendances where patients were seen in less than four hours has stayed generally the same as the overall number of A&E attendances has increased.

We’ve looked at more trends in A&E attendances here.


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