The number of patients waiting more than four hours in accident and emergency has increased by 26% in the past year, according to the King’s Fund.
Its monitoring report on the final three months of 2011-12, published today, says overall the NHS met the requirement to admit or discharge 95% of patients within four hours.
However, 226,021 patients waited more than four hours in the period, an increase of 26% on the same period in the previous year.
Forty-eight organisations did not achieve the requirement, compared with 21 in the same period of 2010-11.
Acute trust finance directors surveyed as part of the think tank’s quarterly review identified A&E waiting times as the second most challenging issue faced by organisations.
The biggest challenge, highlighted by 86% of the 60 respondents, was achieving savings plans.
Although 93% said their organisation had achieved a surplus or break-even position, 40% had missed their planned savings targets for last year. The report authors warn this suggests the NHS as a whole fell short of its savings target during 2011-12.
King’s Fund chief economist John Appleby said: “The productivity challenge will only get harder, so evidence that large numbers of organisations failed to meet their productivity targets last year does not bode well.”
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter, said: “This report is another reflection of the growing pressure that the NHS frontline is under. Our own studies earlier this month showed that patients were being placed on hospital trolleys for hours on end and treated in corridors not appropriate for care.
“With the NHS in England facing such a huge financial challenge and with the rising demand in A&E departments, we fear that patients will be forced to wait longer and longer periods for treatment over the next few years.”