Research by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has found that at just one-third of NHS trusts, more than 38,000 patients have waited longer than 12 hours for a bed since the start of October – a stark contrast to official NHS England data which suggests only 13,000 patients have endured such waits across England since 2011/12.
The disparity is down to the RCEM measuring time in A&E from the moment a patient arrives at an emergency department (in common with how figures are recorded in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), while NHS England take the starting point from when a decision to admit a patient is made – meaning hours in waiting rooms or corridors are not taken into account.
In a shocking recent example, a four-year-old boy slept on the floor on a pile of coats of the Leeds General Infirmary after being rushed to hospital by ambulance last week. Despite the fact he needed an oxygen mask, he did not get a bed for over 13 hours before being diagnosed with influenza A and tonsillitis.
The hospital has apologised but added their staff have been working tirelessly in what has been their busiest week on A&E for almost four years.
Jack’s case and thousands of others like his show why it is vital the real scale of the problems make their way into official statistics – it is only through acknowledging the true reality can effective solutions be found.