Tuesday, 5 March 2024
Tuesday, 5 March 2024

Report: Sharp decline in people’s experiences of NHS urgent and emergency care

MORE people are facing long waits and reporting poor experiences in NHS urgent and emergency care departments, according to results from a new survey.

The proportion of people waiting more than one hour in major A&E departments before first speaking to a nurse or doctor has more than doubled since 2020, from 15% to 32% – and almost two-thirds (64%) report that their A&E visits lasted more than 4 hours.

The results, from a survey of more than 36,000 people coordinated by international healthcare charity Picker on behalf of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), show sharp declines in many areas of people’s experiences of urgent and emergency care since the pandemic.

The survey offers a detailed insight into people’s experiences of care whilst in urgent and emergency care settings. There were a number of worrying declines in all types of emergency departments.

In ‘type 1’ accident and emergency departments only two-thirds of patients (66%) said that they ‘definitely’ had enough time to discuss their condition with a doctor or nurse – down from 74% in 2020. More than half of patients (56%) who reported that they needed help with their condition or symptoms whilst they were waiting in A&E said that they were unable to get this from a member of staff – an increase of 11% points from 45% in 2020.

Commenting on the results, Chris Graham, CEO of Picker, said:

“Today’s survey results confirm what we already knew – that waiting times in A&E and other urgent care departments have risen precipitously since the pandemic. Whilst waiting times can be a crude measure of quality, it is particularly alarming to note that the proportion of people waiting more than an hour in A&E before speaking to a doctor or nurse has doubled to almost one in three. Early clinical assessment is important both for people’s experiences of care and for effective triage.

“Whilst an increase in waiting times is not surprising, the survey shows the impact that this is having on people’s experiences of care. People who reported waits of longer than four hours reported significantly worse experiences on average in almost all other areas of care and treatment, and there were declines in the quality of communication, involvement, and care coordination experienced by patients. Many of these changes were substantial, mirroring large declines in satisfaction and experience reported in other recent surveys. Urgent and emergency care services are now themselves in need of urgent attention to arrest and reverse these declines.”

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