A new London Assembly report shows that more than 50% of the capital's A&Es are missing a target to see 95% of patients within four hours – and missing it at least 50% of the time. Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust has missed the target every week for the past year, only managing to see 85% of patients within four hours. North West London – where A&E departments are due to be cut – missed the target 50 weeks out of 52, Croydon and Imperial missed it a total of 46 weeks and Barnet and Chase Farm missed it for 45 weeks. Chelsea and Westminster, however, always meet the target, with 98% of patients being seen within four hours. (98% is, incidentally, what the target used to be before the government reduced it to 95% in 2010.)
More of us are going to A&E than before: annual attendance over the past decade is up from 2.5m to 3.6m. And in September A&Es were experiencing waiting times not normally seen until December, raising fears that if we have another bad winter, emergency healthcare won't be able to cope. In the short term some (but not all) NHS trusts are getting extra money to help take the pressure off A&E, but expert submissions to the Assembly said that what's needed long term is better community, social and primary (i.e. GP) care – in other words, keep patients out of A&E in the first place.
But there's the rub. Enfield Council is currently in court to try to stop Chase Farm A&E being closed before community health centres are opened. Channel 4 News recently highlighted a report showing that Walk In Centres are closing (12 that we can see in London, PDF) which could add to the numbers piling into A&E. Basically, things look likely to get worse before they get better.
Photo by Tom Ledger from the Londonist Flickr pool.