Fears NHS crisis could last all year as London 12-hour A&E waits rise 11% in a month

Latest data suggests pressure on emergency services could last beyond the winter period (PA Wire)
Latest data suggests pressure on emergency services could last beyond the winter period (PA Wire)

The number of Londoners waiting more than 12 hours in A&E has jumped by 11 per cent in a month, the Standard can reveal, raising fears that the capital’s annual NHS winter crisis could become permanent.

A total of 8,716 people had to wait more than 12 hours across the capital's A&E departments in March, up from 7,807 the month before.

London is also under acute pressure compared with other regions, the figures show, as national 12-hour waits fell by 3.3 per cent during the same period. Nearly a fifth of 12-hour waits were in London hospitals.

Long wait times in A&E usually peak in December and January due to a surge in winter viruses such as flu, Covid and Strep A.

But the latest data suggests that pressure on emergency services could be sustained beyond the winter period, as 12-hour waits in London are up 18 per cent on the figure recorded in March last year.

More than 415,000 people in London attended A&E in March, a rise of nine per cent on the month before.

One in ten attendances (10.7 per cent) were at hospitals run by Barts Health NHS Trust in east London.

The NHS recovery plan target to admit, transfer or discharge 76 per cent of patients attending A&E within four hours was also not met in the capital.

Meanwhile, the number of people waiting more than four hours from a decision to admit to admission in London climbed by six per cent.

NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said the latest health service performance data “demonstrates once again how the NHS is working flat out to recover services” despite “enormous demand”.

He added that industrial action “has had a significant impact” on the size of the NHS waiting list, which fell by 400,000 in a month.

Meanwhile, the average response time in March for ambulances in London dealing with the most urgent incidents, defined as calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries, was seven minutes and 11 seconds, NHS figures show.

This is down slightly from seven minutes and 21 seconds in February, but is above the target standard response time of seven minutes.