The NHS appears to be increasingly under strain as new data revealed that A&E waiting times have fallen to lowest level since the four-hour target was created, back in 2004.
This recent slump in performance means that 330,000 people waited longer than the four-hour target due to lack of resources inside England’s emergency departments.
Over 83,000 patients faced “trolley waits” of a further four hours while a bed was found for them.
The percentage of patients seen to within four hours fell to 84.4% short of the 95% target. Only two major emergency departments in England hit the 95% target.
Professor John Appleby, chief economist of the Nuffield Trust, said patients faced serious consequences as a result of the decline in performance.
“Today’s figures remind us that the NHS is fighting a losing battle in trying to meet its commitments to provide timely health care in the face of the pressure it is under. There is a risk that we lose sight of these problems as Brexit distracts us, or become numbed as we forget the last time targets were met.
“But this situation has a serious impact on hundreds of thousands of patients, and will be demoralising for many staff.
“The proportion of patients spending more than four hours in A&E has risen to 15.6% in January – the highest ever in this set of data. It looks like the gap between the service’s capacity and the care we need from it is widening.
“Only two major emergency departments in England met the four hour target and attendances have risen by an astonishing 85,000 compared with January last year, increasing through the winter when they would usually fall.
“Last year there was widespread concern as we saw trolley waits balloon, yet today’s figures show an even higher level.”