Regulator Monitor Warns NHS Trust After Four-Hour A&E Waiting Time Missed In NHS for First Time This Winter

18 December 2013

Regulator Monitor Warns NHS Trust After Four-Hour A&E Waiting Time Missed In NHS for First Time This Winter

National figures show NHS in England has missed its four-hour A&E waiting time for the first time this winter, with 94.8% of patients being seen within four hours in the first week of December, dropping below the target of 95%.

In light of this news, an NHS trust currently running three West Midlands hospitals has been warned it needs to improve waiting times in A&E. Health regulator Monitor said that The Heart of England NHS Trust has failed to meet national targets at Good Hope and Heartlands Hospitals. The trust has now been given legally binding undertakings to improve, said the regulator.

The original national figures relating to waiting times cover all centres which includes major A&Es, urgent care centres and smaller minor injury units. Waiting times were found to be the worst in the major units, with only 92.2% seen within four hours. The figures further indicate that two thirds of the 144 trusts with major units are currently missing the four hour target.

December is often a month that tests the capacity of the A&E departments due to how busy they are, with individual weekly figures falling below 95% over the last three years before this time prior to Christmas.

NHS England chief operating officer Dame Barbara Hakin said it was "disappointing" performance had dropped, adding: "We know the A&E standard is ambitious and that is only right. This is the first week since April the 95% standard has not been met, however we do know that sometimes this will happen.

"Every year we see a dip in the figures for December, with week on week variations which is why we fully assess how local systems are coping with winter pressures over a longer period.

"We knew this winter would be difficult but it is important to stress the NHS continues to deliver a good service. This is thanks to the hard work and dedication of our frontline staff."

A Department of Health spokeswoman added: "We have always been clear that this could be a difficult winter - and there could be more difficult weeks ahead. But the majority of patients continue to get the excellent care they deserve."

In light of the release of this data earlier this month, The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust which runs Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, Solihull Hospital and community services and the Birmingham Chest Clinic, improvements have been promised by the Trust to Monitor.

The trust has undertaken to improve its performance in urgent and emergency care and to deal with pressures on waiting times, improve how it manages urgent care and bring in external experts to advise regarding how urgent care is being handled. Earlier this week, the trust said it had brought in extra doctors at Heartlands Hospital after struggling to cope with demands on its A&E department.

Dr Aidan McNamara, from the emergency medicine department at the hospital, said: "There's always pressure.

"We look at it [waiting time targets] as an important performance standard and it reflects on the whole of the healthcare system."

If you have an experience relating to possible medical mistreatment at one of the Trusts mentioned above, or wish to know how to best make a complaint or raise concerns at the treatment received, has specialist teams who can provide advice, support and guidance so that you know exactly where you stand and what your patient and healthcare rights are.