UK & World News
A&E Departments Failing To Hit NHS Targets
The number of NHS Foundation trusts in England failing to see A&E patients within four hours has doubled in the last year, according to new figures.
A quarterly report by regulator Monitor found 31 trusts missed the waiting times target in April-June compared with 13 over the same period in 2012.
The report said: "We are concerned about waiting times in A&E which normally improve in the spring and early summer, but which this year remained challenging for 31 foundation trusts which failed the four-hour target in the quarter ended June 30, 2013.
"This compares to 13 in the same period last year.
"Long waits in A&E may result in patients experiencing unsatisfactory care and the persistence of problems means that it is essential for trusts to plan appropriately and have the right funding in place if the challenges of next winter are to be dealt with effectively."
The report also said the number of foundation trusts running a financial deficit increased from 36 in the first quarter of 2012/13 to 48 for the equivalent period this year.
The overall deficit was £74m, although the regulator stressed that figure was mostly due to a small number of "particularly financially troubled trusts".
During the first quarter of 2013/14, trusts generated £57m less in cost savings than originally planned.
Jason Dorsett, Monitor's financial risk and reporting director, said: "Our analysis of returns from foundation trusts shows that patients are still waiting too long at A&Es in a number of foundation trusts.
"Increased demand means more than ever that trusts need better and earlier planning to make sure they deal with these problems.
"The increased demand has also prevented trusts from delivering their planned financial savings.
"We expect to see trusts planning now for how the increased demand will impact on their finances, so that they are not storing up trouble for the future."
Responding to the figures, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "A&E is the barometer of the whole of health and care.
"It is telling us that there are severe storms ahead for the NHS this winter unless the Government urgently faces up to problems with front-line staffing and in social care.
"Close to one million people have waited longer than four hours to be seen at A&E in the last 12 months - the worst year in decade.
"The Government has brought the NHS to the brink and cannot continue to ignore the warnings that are mounting by the day.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said A&Es saw 95% of patients within their targets since the end of April - as they were before last winter.
She said: "This is testament to the hard work of staff working throughout the health and care system.
"But we know that more work needs to be done to make sure that patients have access to the urgent and emergency services that they need.
"That's why we are investing £500m over the next two years to help ensure A&E departments are prepared for winter."