DELAYS facing A&E patients have plunged to their worst levels in a decade, latest figures reveal.
Only 91.8 per cent of patients were seen in four hours between January and March, while the NHS failed to hit the target for the 26th week in a row.
Two thirds of 15 NHS trusts serving the region failed to hit the target in the first three months of the year, with performance in Hull the worst in the country. Only 73.8 per cent of patients were seen in four hours in the city, with performance in the week ending March 29 hitting 71.4 per cent despite a plan designed to speed up treatment.
Hospital chiefs say problems have intensified in the last week, leaving it facing “extreme pressures” leading to the diversion at times of ambulances to other centres. It remained on black alert yesterday.
Last night Labour said the performance across England was the worst since 2004.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: “There’s only one person to blame for the A&E crisis and that’s David Cameron.
“He has made it harder to get a GP appointment, cut council social care budgets and wasted £3 billion on a reorganisation that nobody wanted and nobody voted for. If David Cameron gets back in, his extreme spending cuts mean he can’t protect the NHS and the crisis in A&E will get even worse.”
A Conservative spokesman said: “A&E units across the UK faced unprecedented demand this winter, but English A&Es see 3,000 more patients a day within four hours than in 2009, and perform better than Scotland, Northern Ireland and Labour-run Wales, so it is completely wrong for Labour to try to turn this into a political football.”
Hospital bosses in Hull say the city’s A&E unit is undergoing an £8m revamp and is due to open the last of its new resuscitation rooms next week.
Unison regional officer Ray Gray said the completion of work had to be followed by improvements in waiting times.
He said the new facilities looked “amazing” and welcomed the trust’s hiring of 22 new A&E staff. He said: “It will go a long way to improving staff levels, but they still need to move people through quicker. (The completion of work) crosses a line in the sand - if it doesn’t start improving then it never will.”
Chris Long, chief executive at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said the winter had been “especially difficult”.
“We have experienced a range of pressures across our emergency department and other services which have had a detrimental impact on our ability to meet key performance targets, and clearly this has to improve. Whilst the number of attendances at our emergency department has not risen significantly across the year, what we have seen is an increase in the complexity of the cases people are presenting with.
“Our hospitals have reached capacity on occasion this winter and short term, temporary measures such as diverting ambulances to nearby hospitals have been necessary to ensure services remain safe for patients in our care as well as the staff delivering that care.
“Once complete, the new department will give us extra capacity by doubling in size and giving us one of the largest resuscitation areas in the country.”