UK hospitals urge patients to stay away from A&E after surge in numbers causes 12 hour waits

The NHS target is for 95% of A&E patients to be seen within four hours

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Six UK hospitals have issued a joint warning urging people to stay away from emergency departments except for “genuine, life-threatening situations”.

The warning comes after a surge in numbers left some patients waiting for up to 12 hours.

Hospitals facing ‘extreme pressure’

Hospital trusts across West Yorkshire and Harrogate in North Yorkshire – an area covering more than 2.5 million people – said the current pressures have left them with no choice but to prioritise patients presenting with acute illness or injuries.

According to the Nuffield Trust, in the third quarter of 2021-22, just 61.7% of A&E patients at type 1 hospitals (which deal with more patients and more serious cases than type 2 and 3) were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

With more than 4 million type one patients in this quarter, this means that more than 1.5 million were left waiting to be seen for more than four hours.

West Yorkshire Association of Acute Trusts (WYAAT) said its most recent emergency department figures show a 14.2% increase in attendance compared with the same week last year.

Some patients have been waiting more than 12 hours to be seen at A & E departments in the UKSome patients have been waiting more than 12 hours to be seen at A & E departments in the UK
Some patients have been waiting more than 12 hours to be seen at A & E departments in the UK

The University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, was put on red alert last week as wait times surpassed 12 hours and intensive care and critical care units and A&E reached maximum capacity.

In a statement, the health board said: "We are experiencing significant pressure across our Health System, with our University Hospital of Wales and University Hospital Llandough sites operating at Escalation Level 4, denoting extreme pressure.

"Our Emergency Unit at UHW is extremely busy and we would urge you to only attend the department where absolutely necessary - if you have a life-threatening illness or serious injury."

Dr Andrew Lockey, emergency medicine consultant with Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, added: “It’s really important that people only come to an accident and emergency department if they really need to.

“Our hospitals are extremely busy, and people are having to wait a long time to be seen.

“Over the past two weeks we’ve faced huge challenges with the sharp uplift in the number of people attending accident and emergency. This places additional pressure on our teams who are responsible for treating patients with serious and life-threatening conditions.

“If you are unwell and are unsure which healthcare service you need, call NHS 111. A highly trained clinical adviser will direct you to the most appropriate service.”