Impossible situation for emergency care staff as patients suffer long waits

Sarah Scobie responds to the latest monthly NHS performance stats from NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Press release

Published: 14/04/2022

Responding to the latest monthly NHS performance stats from NHS England and NHS Improvement, Nuffield Trust Deputy Director of Research Dr Sarah Scobie said:

“Today’s figures are particularly stark and show record waiting times in emergency and urgent care. Waits of this scale create an impossible situation for staff and are the cause of frightening levels of suffering among patients.

“There is a significant bottleneck in A&E units, piling pressure onto staff in hospitals and ambulance services. Patients are waiting in pain for record lengths of time in A&E units, to be found a bed in hospital after a decision to admit and even for ambulances to reach them for serious and life-changing illnesses. It’s almost unthinkable that one in ten emergency patients waited over two hours for an ambulance which should take 18 minutes. These delays are weighing heavily on ambulance staff with the latest staff survey showing high levels of work-related stress, increasing to 61% - an increase of 10% pre-pandemic.

“Covid-19 continues to keep a firm grip on the health service. The speed and scale at which the latest variant spreads have kept wards closed and staff absences because of Covid have reached levels not seen since January.

“While restrictions have been ditched, the Covid pressure in hospitals is ramping up, not down. Over 15,000 patients were in hospital with Covid in England at the end of March and this continues to grow going into April. This will inevitably slow down the effectiveness of the government’s elective recovery plan. While we’ve seen a very small drop in patients waiting for two years, the number of patients waiting over a year has been hovering around 300,000 for almost a year now. It is hard to imagine an end in sight, with lengthy waits for healthcare firmly here to stay.”

Notes to editors