UK emergency department performance: Failure or Success.


Recent figures suggest that UK emergency systems are failing to meet the 4-hour standard (aka the 4 hour target). At first glance this is true the data shows that 88.7% of patients are seen and discharged/admitted within 4 hours as compared to the target (I’m going to stick with target) of 95%.

This has been described as ‘worst ever month’ and if we look at simple percentages that’s true.

Sadly, comments such as failure and worst are demoralising for the teams who are working really hard to deliver emergency care in an overworked and stressed system. The key here is in the percentages, they underestimate the number of patients actually seen in a system that is seeing more patients every year.

It is perhaps worthy to note that in the last quarter figures there were 5,867,323 attendances at UK emergency departments. Of these 711,201 waited more than 4 hours.

In other words we managed 5.15 Million patients within the 4 hour target.

Well done all. This is not a failure, it’s an incredible achievement considering the current staffing, political and financial climate. Times are tough, the target may not be met, but let’s keep some perspective.

This is a huge achievement.



Further reading

BBC on worst ever results for UK Emergency care

RCEM response to figures

King’s fund response to latest statistics.

NHS emergency care statistics

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