Patients in Lewisham are being made to wait hours longer than they should at their local Accident and Emergency departments, according to new figures released by the NHS.
According to statistics from NHS England, only 86 per cent of Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust A&E patients were seen within the waiting time target of four hours over the past three months. This figure falls far below the national target of 95 per cent.
Numerous other hospitals across the UK are also missing the mark, with performance dropping to its lowest level since the target was introduced in 2004.
From October and December, 92.6 per cent of patients were seen in four hours. This week, the figure has dropped to 90.5 per cent, according to the BBC.
Lewisham and Greenwich’s poor performance comes in spite of an increased number of beds and facilities, most of which opened in early November 2014. University Hospital Lewisham received a new 24-bed stroke ward and a winter pressures ward with 20 escalation beds.
A spokesperson for Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust said: “We are working with our partners to handle the demand for emergency services. Like many Trusts, we have found meeting the four-hour A&E waiting target a challenge – despite the hard work of our staff. The large number of patients requiring hospital treatment continues to increase.”
“As a result, we have opened wards and increased the number of beds for patients who come through our emergency departments. We are making further improvements and have also set up command centres at University Hospital Lewisham and Queen Elizabeth Hospital to oversee performance in the emergency departments and ensure we provide the best possible care for patients.
They added: “It’s also important that local people only use emergency departments for emergencies and for when they need urgent hospital care. You can visit or call 111 if you want to find out the options which are available, such as pharmacists which are open late.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – who previously attempted to close Lewisham A&E – admitted that meeting the target was proving difficult, but said: “Targets matter but not at any cost. The priority is to treat people with dignity and respect.”
“I think we also have to recognise, despite the particular pressures, despite the major incidents, and you always get some major incidents at this time of year, that the NHS is continuing to see, in A&E departments, nine out of ten people within the four-hour target.”
“That is actually better than any other country in the world that measures these things.”
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham countered, saying patients were being exposed to “an unacceptable level of risk”.
He told the BBC: “This crisis in A&E has its roots in the government’s cuts to social care and GP access and its disastrous decision to throw the NHS into the chaos of reorganisation.”