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Longer waits in emergency departments are inevitable as services reach capacity, report finds

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4819 (Published 24 July 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g4819
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

Most reasons given for the declining performance of emergency departments in England’s hospitals are wrong, or at best explain only part of the problem, a new analysis from the Health Foundation and the Nuffield Trust has found.1

Soaring attendances, ageing patients with complex problems, poor access to GP services, and winter weather are usually blamed for hospitals missing the four hour accident and emergency (A&E) target. But the new report found that attendances at major A&E units, where long waits are likely to be more serious, had increased only in line with population growth; the “soaring” figures were accounted for by emergency units dealing with less critical cases.

The proportion of older people attending A&E departments has increased, but this accounted for only 11% of the decline in performance against the target, while cold winter weather …

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