Responding to the latest Emergency Department performance figures published by NHS England for August 2022, President of the RCEM (Royal College of Emergency Medicine), Dr Katherine Henderson said: “The data is stark. We are worried about the coming winter. These are the second worst data on record. Too many patients are waiting too long. We know long waits contribute to patient harm.
“In August over 29,000 patients waited over 12 hours after a decision to admit was made, with some patients waiting up to three days for a bed. We think the consequence of this is shown in the ONS data as 500 excess deaths a week. We must not accept these long stays as normal. We need to see leadership and meaningful action that gets to grips with this crisis.
“We urge the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, and incoming Health and Social Care Secretary, Therese Coffey, to make tackling the crisis in Emergency Care a priority. The scale of patient harm occurring is shocking. The Emergency Care system is failing to its core functions; it is vital that we mitigate the impact of this crisis ahead of winter and do all we can to keep patients safe and reduce these dangerous waiting times.
“The Prime Minister and Health Secretary must urgently bolster the social care workforce. Thousands of beds are occupied by patients who are medically fit to be discharged, but the lack of social care service means that getting patients home is a slow and complex process. This means that hospitals have difficulty in discharging patients in a timely way, leading to exit block, poor flow throughout the hospital and subsequent problems in Emergency Departments and ambulance waits. The need for investment in social care couldn’t be clearer.
“Staff are exhausted, overwhelmed and in the midst of the worst crisis the NHS has ever faced. Widespread shortfalls of staff across all grades and departments mean health care workers are spread increasingly thinly and more prone to burnout – there are currently around 130,000 vacancies in the NHS almost 10% of its workforce. The Prime Minister must deliver the fully funded long-term NHS workforce plan that the government pledged to deliver in 2019. Emergency Care is in crisis and there is a shortfall of 2,000-2,500 Emergency Medicine consultants and widespread shortages of vital nursing staff, trainees, SAS doctors and junior and supporting staff are contributing to the challenges."