Almost 19,000 NHS patients had to wait three days in A&E over 12 months | National Health Service

Almost 19,000 NHS patients were left waiting in A&E for three days over a 12-month period, research has revealed.

Between April 2023 and March 2024, almost 400,000 people had to wait more than 24 hours in emergency departments, a 5% increase from the previous year. Channel 4’s Dispatches program also found that 54,000 people had to wait more than two days, according to a freedom of information request sent to NHS England.

The investigation exposed “the suffering and indignity patients face on a daily basis” after an undercover reporter secretly filmed himself working as a trainee healthcare assistant within the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital emergency department for two months.

The “heartbreaking” scenes from the hospital’s emergency department came as a think tank analyst said people in emergency care were dying in England “who don’t need to be dying.”

Footage shows a patient waiting 30 hours in an area “suitable for sitting” while a suspected stroke patient was there for 24 hours, the broadcaster said.

Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “I don’t think this is unique to this hospital by any means. The things we have seen here today are clearly not limited to just winter. It was a year-long crisis in emergency care.

“Spending two days in an emergency department is worse than spending two days in an airport lounge. These are people sitting in uncomfortable seats where the lights never turn off. There is constant noise, there is constant stress. “There is no end in sight.”

Clips from the investigation showed an elderly man forced to urinate on a trolley in the hallway in full view of staff and other patients, while in another, a woman cried in agony for hours, Channel 4 said.

A total of 18,638 people waited more than three days in A&E during the period, a 60% increase on the previous 12 months. A spokesperson for the hospital trust said: “Like other hospitals, our trust faces significant challenges with urgent and emergency care.

“We understand our challenges and are investing in our services and making constant improvements as a trust, as outlined in our recent CQC report. However, there is still much more to do; We don’t want to be in a position where we have to care for patients in the hallways.

“We are very sorry that our patients have experienced anything less than the quality care we seek and we are determined, working with partners, to improve the care and experience for everyone.”

The spokesperson added that although the trust disputed some of the claims made in the Dispatches programme, it would “thoroughly investigate all claims to identify and incorporate any learnings into our continuous improvement work”.

The latest figures show more than one in four people waited longer than the four-hour target in A&E, according to the King’s Fund. Patients wait an average of 33 minutes for an ambulance in emergencies such as strokes and heart attacks, when the target is 18 minutes, the think tank added.

Undercover A&E: NHS in Crisis – Dispatches – will air on Channel 4 at 9pm on Monday.

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