Over 51,000 incidents of patients having to wait over four hours at local A&E departments were recorded between October 2015 and November 2016, the News can reveal.
A&E departments at St Thomas’ and King’s College hospitals both failed to hit government-set targets: for 95 per cent of patients to be diagnosed, treated and admitted to hospital within four hours of arriving. What’s more, only two of London’s eighteen A&Es were successful.
The worrying statistics came after a freedom of information request by the Labour Party found one case of a King’s A&E patient waiting nearly 46 hours to be treated due to a shortage of specialist psychiatric resources.
Data published by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (KCHT) revealed 42,764 were left waiting for more than four hours. This equated to over ten per cent of all the visits made to its A&E within the twelve-month period.
The worst month at King’s A&E was October 2016, as only 74.9 per cent of patients were seen within the four hours. Its average across the twelve months was 79.35 per cent, compared to 86.05 for the period of May 2015 to April 2016
For St Thomas’ Hospital A&E, the total of patients who waited over four hours through the twelve months was 18,581. Its monthly average for the number of patients seen within four hours was 87.47 per cent – compared with 91.75 per cent for April 2015 to April ’16.
London Assembly member for Southwark and Lambeth, Florence Eshalomi, said the figures showed that A&Es were under “extreme financial pressure” caused in part by pressures on councils and social-care budgets.
“These figures show that we went into an A&E crisis last winter and never really emerged,” Florence said.
“The Government’s unrelenting squeeze on the NHS is really taking its toll in Southwark. Expecting Trusts to meet growing pressure whilst cutting their funding just isn’t viable.
“We know that NHS staff are working incredibly hard to look after patients, but our NHS needs to be properly funded and supported – Jeremy Hunt needs to take action and he needs to take it now.”
The average for A&E departments across England was 85.17 per cent, and even the best performing A&E in London – Homerton Hospital in Hackney – missed the 95 per cent target in seven months.
A KCHT spokesperson said: “Like many hospitals across the country, we have seen – and continue to see – increased demand for our services. All patients who present at our Emergency Department are assessed and prioritised according to the seriousness of their condition.”
A spokesperson for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “While this target has proved challenging to meet, we continue to ensure patients are seen according to clinical need. Those with life-threatening or the most serious conditions will always been seen most quickly, often immediately.
“While some patients will wait longer, these will usually be those with more minor conditions, not all of whom require treatment in an A&E department.”
King’s also reaffirmed its commitment to investing in improvements to its A&E, including with the creation of a discrete area for mental-health patients in crisis.
The News reported in June that KCHT had committed £6.5m to improving mental health facilities at its A&E – given to King’s by NHS England in 2008 – to make up for the closure of Maudsley Hospitals A&E.
The KCHT spokesperson added that it is “reconfiguring the layout to better cater for the patients we treat, and create extra capacity for urgent care services.”
The Guy’s and St Thomas’ spokesperson added: “We are keen to encourage all patients to use the most appropriate service for their needs, and (www.healthhelpnow-nhs.net) which offers advice and guidance to people living in Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark on where to seek treatment for all sorts of illness and injuries.”