The winter crisis in hospital A&E departments could take up to 5 years to sort out, senior health officials warned yesterday.
Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of NHS England said it would be “foolish” to predict there would be no repeat of the delays patients have had waiting for treatment.
Sir Bruce Keogh issued his bleak warnings about the state of the NHS to MP’s on the Healh Committee.
Professor Keith Willet, the NHS director of acute care, said there had to be a “complete transformation” of the entire emergency treatment system for a long-term solution.
Prof Willet said there was a three to five-year programme to improve A&E.
He told MPs: “We have to transform the whole system with a particular focus on out-of-hospital services being the way to reduce demand and alleviate congestion. It isn’t going to be a quick fix.”
Recent figures showed that fewer than 87% of patients were seen within the four-hour target period – well short of the expected 85 per cent rate. It is the lowest since records began in 2004.
Dr Clifford Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, told the committee that the increase in A&E visits was equivalent to eight or nine extra emergency departments.
Patients have also endured lengthy waits for ambulances. In one case, an elderly woman had to wait eleven hours. Some hospitals have been so full ambulances have queued for hours to unload their patients.