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A&E departments see worst performance since records began

12 Apr 2018

  • 76.4% of patients at major A&E departments treated within 4 hour target. 
  • The number of patients having to wait more than one year for treatment has now gone over 2,000 patients for the first time since August 2012.
  • 18 week target for planned treatment has not been met in two years. 
  • Planning for next winter must start now, says Royal College of Surgeons.
Today’s NHS performance data shows another significant decline in the percentage of patients seen within 4 hours of attendance at A&E. Performance for A&E usually improves in March as the NHS comes out of the winter. However, hospitals have struggled this year with continued cold weather, including heavy snow, and high rates of flu and norovirus.

Statistics published today show in March 2018, 76.4% of patients at major A&E departments (‘type 1 units’) were treated within the four hour government target. This was worse than in February 2018, when 76.9% of patients were seen within 4 hours in A&E. For all A&E units, performance was 84.6% - well below the 95% standard and the worst performance since modern records began.  

Data published by NHS England today on waits for planned treatment also reveals only 87.9% of patients started treatment within 18 weeks, meaning the government’s 92% target has now not been met in two years – or since February 2016. The number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for planned treatment in February 2018 was 454,342. The number of patients having to wait more than one year for treatment has now gone over 2,000 patients for the first time since August 2012, with 2,236 still on the list. 

Mr Ian Eardley, Senior Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons and a consultant urological surgeon, said: 

“Despite better planning this winter and staff going above and beyond to help patients, the NHS has once again faced intense pressure. A&E departments were snowed under by the second big freeze of the winter, with heavy demand carrying on well into March. This has resulted in some hospitals continuing to cancel planned operations so that they could prioritise patients needing emergency care. 

“In the worst affected areas, some cancer operations have had to be cancelled over the winter2. Having an operation or treatment cancelled is very distressing for patients, who are often in pain or discomfort, and it can cause their condition to deteriorate, potentially making treatment more complicated. Cancelling cancer operations is utterly unacceptable and to avoid such a situation arising again, planning for next winter must start now. There also needs to be a concrete plan for dealing with the backlog that has grown over this winter. 

“At the end of March the Government made the welcome announcement that it will provide substantial additional funding for the NHS. This must be used to sustain access to existing hospital services but also to transform the way we provide care for older patients so they can be treated closer to their homes.” 

Notes to editors

1. Full data is available here:


3. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

4. For more information, please contact the Press Office:  telephone: 020 7869 6047/6052/6229; email:; out of hours media enquiries: 07966 486832.


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