NHS: A&E waiting times linked to 23,000 excess deaths in 2022 according to Royal College of Emergency Medicine

A Freedom of Information request by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has suggested 23,000 excess deaths in 2022 were linked to NHS A&E waiting times.

Analysis by the college found that in 2022, 1.66 million people were left waiting for more than 12 hours in A&E from the moment they walked in. After putting in a Freedom of Information request to the NHS, RCEM found 1,656,296 patients waited in A&E for over 12 hours then worked out the mortality rates linked to long waits.

A mortality ratio looks at whether a specific population is more, less, or just as likely to die compared to the general population. Using data from a 2021 medicine journal study, RCEM concluded there was one extra death for every 72 patients that spent eight to 12 hours in A&E.

Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: "These data, while shocking, are unsurprising. Long waiting times are associated with serious patient harm and patient deaths - the scale shown here for 2022 is deeply distressing.

“The data shows how necessary it is to have transparent figures. We believe that being honest with the data will be a service to patients and staff.”

An NHS England (NHSE) spokesperson said: "The cause of excess deaths is down to a number of different factors and so attributing deaths to one exact thing as the figures quoted by the RCEM attempt to do, is very unlikely to give a full or certain picture - it therefore would not be appropriate for NHSE to recognise these as fact, and it is right that the experts at the ONS - as the executive branch of the statistics authority - continue to analyse excess deaths.

“The recently published UEC Recovery Plan sets out targets to achieve a four-hour performance of 76% by March 2024, and publish accurate 12-hour waits from time of arrival.”

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