NHS chiefs order hospitals to begin urgent overhaul of A&E care

"NHS hospitals are now working flat out to cope with the pressures in A&E, however, it is important that the millions of people requiring vital elective treatment such as hip operations and cataracts are not forgotten", noted David Hare, chief executive, NHS Partners Network.

According to the latest NHS statistics, 988 people were kept waiting for an extended time - more than six times the figure in January past year.

Some 85.1% of patients attending A&E were seen within four hours in January - making it the worst month on record, figures show.

Safety guidelines introduced in 2004 asked for A&E departments across the country to assess and discharge 95 per cent of their patients within four hours.

NHS bosses have ordered hospitals to push through an urgent overhaul of A&E care, with Global Positioning System assessing every patient when they turn up, to help the health service avoid another winter crisis.

The figure for Jan is officially the worst ever, since reporting began back in 2010.

The 85% target for patients to start cancer treatment within just over two months of an urgent GP referral was not met, with 79.7% of people beginning treatment within the time frame.

January's figure for delayed transfers of care, so-called "bed-blocking", were the second-highest on record.

"In recent days, the hospital has seen a significant numbers of very frail and seriously ill patients requiring acute medical treatment". The plans will reshape the health service by closing some hospitals, A&E departments and other units to prevent a £22bn black hole in NHS finances by 2021.

Commenting on the "worrying growth", the NHS Partners Network has warned that the government must increase awareness among patients of their right to choose where they receive NHS treatment.

Ambulance response times continued to fall, with only 66.7 per cent of the most life-threatening situations, known as Red 1, seen to within eight minutes.

According to Nuffield Trust's chief economist and director of research, John Appleby, the latest performance figures make for "dismal reading" for staff and patients.

The reforms follow a £2bn investment in social care and a £100m injection for schemes to divert the least sick away from A&E, announced in Wednesday's budget.

  • Joanne Flowers