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Performance sinks to new low despite drop in attendances

Royal College of Emergency Medicine

2 min read Partner content

The latest data from RCEM Winter Flow Project 2020-21 reflects the scale of the challenge covid continues to present at Emergency Departments (EDs).

In the first week of January attendances at Emergency Departments dropped once again to the lowest in the project so far, 51,771, a 5% decrease from December W5 and an overall 20% decrease since the first week of October 2020, when the project began.

Despite a decrease in attendances, performance dropped and reached its lowest in the project so far. Four-hour standard performance dropped to 69.38%, meaning three in 10 patients were waiting more than four hours to be admitted. 12-hour waits, although marginally decreasing on the previous week, translated to 5.19% of all attendances. That means 1 in 19 patients were waiting 12 hours or more in an Emergency Department from arrival to discharge, which is more than the 1 in 20 we reported last week.

All signs point to a system under a huge amount of strain. These show that departments are struggling at the moment and highlight the severity of patient conditions.

Last month saw a record number of 12-hour trolley waits in England, with 3,745 counted by NHS England during December. As the Winter Flow Project demonstrates via our own separate count of long stays in Emergency Departments, that number is undoubtedly just the tip of the iceberg, with 12,222 12-hour stays recorded by our contributing sites.

A spokesperson for the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“As the elective treatment waiting list climbs to nearly four and a half million, we are reminded of the many ways in which the pandemic is affecting the health service that extend beyond our Emergency Departments, but may have consequences for them – many patients who have their treatment postponed inevitably experience complications and end up at their ED.

“Signs indicate that cases are finally beginning to fall, but the damage being wrought is still severe, made evident by the drop in performance despite a reduction of attendances. Any kind of recovery remains some way off.

“A lot has been asked of the public in the last 10 months, and more will be asked of them still. Anyone who can stay home must continue to do so, and the Government must do its utmost to support them, for the sake not just of public health, but for the health of the NHS itself.”


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