‘OVER half of all major Emergency Departments are currently operating in the Red Zone,’ Dr Adrian Boyle of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine warned yesterday.
The Red Zone is when 85 per cent of patients waiting in A&E are not seen within a four-hour period. Dr Adrian Boyle continued: ‘However, it is a testament to the hard work of staff that four-hour performance is up slightly on last month in spite of a record number of emergency admissions.
‘The number of emergency admissions and trolley waits should make it clear that we can ill-afford to lose any more beds as we have over previous winters.’ Dr Rob Harwood, BMA consultants committee chair, said: ‘These figures should ring alarm bells for the NHS and government as we approach winter, as rocketing demand leaves A&E patients facing unacceptably long waits to be seen or admitted.
‘Last month, emergency admissions hit a record high while the number of patients waiting more than four hours to be seen was almost 10 per cent higher than last year. These statistics represent what happened in hospitals during a relatively mild autumn before the added pressure associated with much colder weather hits.
‘While the government is due to announce its £20bn spending plan for the NHS in the coming weeks, it is unlikely to meet the immediate needs of patients this winter, and if not invested appropriately will fail to address the worrying scenes unfolding in our hospital corridors and GP practices throughout the year.’
Nurses union the RCN said: ‘The number of patients on the waiting list has grown 78 per cent in a year – everywhere you look you see our healthcare system buckling under the strain.
‘Staff shortages are at the heart of these missed targets and miserable trolley waits, and without urgent action we could see more vital services forced to close. These are the consequences of 42,000 nurse vacancies in England alone, projected by the RCN to rise as high as 48,000 in the next five years.’