There were almost 300 deaths a week associated with long A&E waits in 2023 according to a study out today 

That is despite the Government and NHSE implementing a Delivery Plan for the Recovery of Urgent and Emergency Care (UEC) services in January 2023 following the worse winter the health service has ever experienced.

The premise of the plan says the The Royal College of Emergency Medicine, was to improve waiting times and patient experience by increasing capacity, growing the workforce, improving discharge, expanding care outside hospitals, and making it easier to access the right care.

Just over a year on RCEM has analysed progress against the plan and assessed what improvements have been made to recover emergency care services.

This work reveals that in 2023, more than 1.5 million patients waited 12 hours or more, 65% of those were patients awaiting admission.

Using a method called the Standard Mortality Ratio – which calculates there will be one additional death for every 72 patients that experience an 8–12-hour wait prior to their admission – RCEM estimates that there were almost 14,000 associated excess deaths related to waits of 12 hours or longer in 2023 – more than 268 a week.

Dr Adrian Boyle, President of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “We talk here about ratios and calculations, but it is vital to remember that each one of these deaths was of a person with loved ones and families who will forever be left asking ‘what if?’.

“What if things had been different? If the system had functioned as it should? If waits in EDs were no longer than they should be?

“And that is an awful position for them, and for the clinicians who have to deal with the realities of trying to provide the best possible care in such difficult and unacceptable circumstances.

“The associated deaths figures rightly attracts the most attention but our analysis looked at the other elements of the UEC Delivery Plan also. It is vital that any initiatives are scrutinised, and their effectiveness assess so we can establish what is working and what needs adapting.

“Despite good intentions the plan has not been effective or has resulted in any consequential improvement.

“What is needed is substantial investment and a commitment to resuscitating Emergency Care both for the clinicians battling with a struggling system and the patients who deserve so much better. We cannot continue with these inequalities in care, avoidable delays, and deaths.”


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