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12-hour A&E patient waits up over 100-fold since 2019

The number of patients waiting 12 hours or more to be admitted to A&E has risen from just over 3,000 in 2019 to almost 440,000 last year, analysis of NHS figures has shown.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said patients were being forced to wait for hours or “even days” on trolleys, increasing the risk to their lives.

Analysis of NHS England figures by the Liberal Democrats showed 439,411 people waited for 12 hours or more after a decision to admit had been made in 2023/24, up from just 3,262 in 2018/19.

RCEM president Dr Adrian Boyle said: “These figures, and our own research, clearly evidence the shameful and shocking reality of poorly patients who need to be cared for on hospital wards having to wait many hour hours, even days, often on trolleys in corridors because there is not enough capacity in the system.

“There simply are not enough beds to admit people to, often because the people in those beds are medically well enough to go home but can’t because of inadequate or delayed social care support.

“It is not just a matter of inconvenience or lack of dignity, which is bad enough. The longer people’s in-patient admission is delayed, the greater the risk to their life.”

Society of Acute Medicine president Dr Nick Murch said: “The Liberal Democrats’ continued focus on health and social care and, in particular, dangerous waits and overcrowding in emergency departments is very much needed and should be followed by the other parties for the remainder of this election campaign and beyond.

“Failure to address this adequately in the election campaign with meaningful debate and honest discussions about sustainable solutions inevitably means that acute medical patients will be languishing in corridors for the foreseeable future leading to severe harm and earlier deaths. This is a national emergency and must be recognised as that.

“This is an unacceptable new normal. Sadly the burden of risk is borne by the most vulnerable patients: older patients and those with heart disease and cancer. This shame must end.”

The Lib Dems have pledged a £9bn boost to health and social care as part of their general election manifesto.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said: “There are now 10 days left to save the NHS. This election is a chance to end the shocking scenes of people having to wait 12 hours or more in A&E, often in pain and in overcrowded waiting rooms.”

Despite the rising numbers, the Tories have previously stated their intent to help the NHS with the total budget increasing by over a third in real terms since 2010 and the party’s £2.4bn long-term workforce plan.

Within the party manifesto, the Tories have also said they will recruit 92,000 more nurses and 28,000 more doctors in the NHS than in 2023 by the end of the next Parliament, build or modernise 250 GP surgeries focused on areas of new housing growth, and invest £3.4bn in new technology alongside other measures to improve the health service.

Labour too has pledged to “build an NHS fit for the future” by cutting NHS waiting times with 40,000 more appointments every week, double the number of cancer scanners, create a new Dentistry Rescue Plan, bring on 8,500 additional mental health staff, and bring back return of the family doctor.

Additional reporting by PA.

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