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How 12-hour A&E waits may be up to SIX TIMES more common than NHS makes out

Six times more patients are waiting at least 12 hours in emergency departments than official data states, it emerged today.

Currently, health bosses only divulge stats on ‘trolley waits’ — the time between medics deciding a patient needs to be admitted and when they actually are given a bed.

This drastically underplays the scale of the NHS casualty crisis, given that patients may have arrived hours before their condition was deemed serious enough for further treatment.

Trusts in England are now, however, beginning to publicly declare the number of patients who have been left waiting over 12 hours from entering an emergency department.

Campaign groups warned the ‘shocking’ figures show the ‘real state’ of the country’s accident and emergency service. They warned the ‘gross blockages’ will ‘continue indefinitely’ until hospital beds are freed up.

It comes amid a huge A&E crisis, which has seen record numbers face 12-hour waits in recent months and the proportion of patients seen in four hours — the NHS target — fall to all-time lows. 

Ambulance response times have been hit as a result, as full hospitals scramble to find beds for 999 patients, leaving ambulances queuing outside hospitals for up to 11 hours.

More than 1,000 patients a day waited 12 hours or more in A&E for a hospital bed last year, a damning report reveals (stock image)

The analysis, carried out by the trade publication the Health Service Journal, only looked at 20 trusts, including some of England’s busiest. 

NHS England statistics show the organisations logged 5,309 12-hour waits between them during the most recent collection period.

More in-depth data, published by hospital executives in their own board papers, reveal the true toll was closer to the 34,000 mark for the same timespan.

At the worst-affected trusts, just a handful of waits were recorded under the official measure.

This includes Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust, which registered 2,667 12-hour waits in its board papers for May but just four in the NHS England publication for the same month.

And Bedfordshire Hospitals Foundation Trust only reported one 12-hour wait in the routinely-published nation-wide log but stated there were 400 half-day waits in their board papers.

East Suffolk And North Essex Foundation Trust (two vs 501), Mid And South Essex Foundation Trust (nine vs 2,751) and Manchester University Foundation Trust (20 vs 3,519) were also among the trusts with large discrepancies.

Dennis Reed, director of Silver Voices, a campaign group for elderly people, told MailOnline: ‘These figures are shocking and show the real state of our accident and emergency service as experienced by patients. 

‘It can no longer properly be described as an emergency service in many parts of the country. 

‘Until the social care crisis has been sorted out, so that hospital beds are freed up, these gross blockages in the system will continue indefinitely. 

‘Patients are languishing in hospital corridors or in the back of ambulances in their thousands every day and the Government appears to have no plan to sort it out.’

Daniel Pryor, head of research at the think tank Adam Smith Institute, told MailOnline: ‘We know that the NHS fails to live up to patient expectations, but this data shows that the problem is even worse than we thought.

‘Politicians urgently need to get a grip of the A&E crisis and adopt best practices from European countries with better healthcare outcomes.’

It comes after an RCEM report last month revealed an ‘alarming’ 1,000 patients per day waited 12 hours or more at A&E departments across England in 2021. It said the figures highlight ‘serious and dangerous levels of crowding’.

Just 220 patients were forced to wait more than 12 hours of arriving at an emergency department, on average per month, in the decade before Covid hit, while nine in 10 patients (92 per cent) were seen within four hours.

The worst monthly national A&E performance figures pre-pandemic logged was nearly 3,000 patients waiting 12 hours or more and 80 per cent being within four hours.

But last summer, the number of 12-hour waiters started to creep up and hit a record of 23,138 in April — more than seven times higher than the worst month pre-coroanvirus. In June, the latest month figures are available for, the number stood at 22,034.

The proportion of patients seen within four hours — the health service’s own target — also began falling last summer and dropped to an all-time low of 71.6 per cent in March. By June, the rate had only recovered slightly (72.1 per cent).

The NHS blames soaring demand — with the busiest June on record logged this year — Covid pressures, higher than usual staff absences due to the virus and a lack of social care staff to help healthy patients