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A&E target missed every week for six months, says Labour

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The NHS has missed its national accident and emergency target every week for six months, Labour has warned.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said that across England major A&E units have failed to meet the four-hour target each week since late September.

He made his comments after it emerged that patients in Norfolk faced the prospect of being treated in a tent after a hospital’s A&E department was full to bursting.

The Eastern Daily Press reported that a treatment tent was erected outside Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on Monday after emergency patients were left in ambulance queues for up to three hours or more.

The East of England Ambulance Service said that no patients were treated in the tent and the issue has since been resolved.

“Between 11am and 8pm the trust had an average of between six and 15 vehicles queuing for up to three plus hours,” said Oskan Edwardson, associate director of special operations at the ambulance service.

“Clearly this led to ambulances not being available to respond to other patients in the community.

“We worked closely with the hospital and Clinical Commissioning Group throughout the afternoon and deployed the trust major incident tent to help release ambulances back onto the road.”

Mr Burnham said that new data from NHS England shows that the target of 95% of patients being seen within four hours at major A&E units has been missed across the NHS, with performance at some NHS trusts dipping below 70% in recent months.

He said that in the last six months, an extra 107,000 patients have had to wait beyond the four-hour target time compared to the same period last year.

“Standards of care are deteriorating in many parts of the country as the NHS is dragged down by David Cameron’s toxic mix of cuts and re-organisation,” said Mr Burnham.

“England’s A&E departments are suffering their worst winter for a decade, with thousands more people waiting longer to be seen across the country.

“The NHS has failed to hit the target almost the entire time Jeremy Hunt has been health secretary. He urgently needs to get a grip and focus on what matters.

“The government must ensure there are enough staff on the ground across the NHS to provide safe care.

“Almost 5,000 nursing jobs have been lost since David Cameron entered Downing Street. Ministers must develop a plan to bring all A&Es in England back up to national standards.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The NHS is seeing an extra one million more patients in A&E compared to two years ago and despite the additional workload it is coping well.

“Patients shouldn’t face excessive waits for treatment, which is why we provided £330 million to help the NHS cope with the extra pressure the cold weather brings.

“The government is meeting its promise to deliver a real terms increase in health spending and there are now 7,000 more professionally qualified clinical staff in the NHS since 2010. In contrast, the number of admin staff has fallen by over 18,000, and the money saved put back into frontline patient care.”

Sign our Speak Out Safely petition to support a transparent and open NHS. We are calling on thegovernment to implement recommendations from the Francis report that will increase protection for staff whoraise concerns about patient care.

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