WARNINGS were issued yesterday of growing pressure on A&E units as official figures showed patients waiting longer for care.
A Care Quality Commission (CQC) survey of 46,000 patients found a third spent more than four hours in casualty – up from 23 per cent in 2004.
The increase comes in the wake of the decision by former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to axe four-hour targets to treat patients.
The poll found a third of patients waited more than half an hour before being seen by staff, with one in 20 arriving by ambulance waiting more than an hour.
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: “It is becoming clearer by the day – the NHS is struggling and the Government is doing nothing about it.
“The NHS is set for a difficult winter, and patients will suffer, unless ministers take immediate action to help the NHS frontline.”
David Behan, CQC chief executive, said the increased waiting time was “disapppointing”.
“The important issue is that people who need to be treated urgently do not have to wait,” he said.
“People should be seen, diagnosed, treated and admitted or discharged as quickly as possible and this is an issue that trusts need to urgently tackle.”
Health Minister Dan Poulter said: “Rightly, the NHS has moved away from the narrow focus on the four-hour waiting standard which sometimes forced A&E staff to make a broken toe as much of a priority as a patient with potentially life-threatening chest pains.
“Meeting targets and ticking boxes does not ensure good patient care, and we are putting doctors and nurses in charge of making clinical decisions to ensure that the most sick patients in A&E are the highest priority.”