Bristol A&E Waits: thousands forced to wait longer than four hours as ‘perfect storm’ hits NHS

The NHS Emergency Care boss says this winter has created ‘the perfect storm of pressures’ for staff

More than 3,000 patients waited longer than four hours in Bristol’s A&E departments last month - with a third waiting for more than 12 hours. Waits in A&E across the country have hit an all-time high.

The figures, released by NHS England, show a marked increase in November waiting times for the University Hospitals (UH) and North Bristol (NB) NHS Trusts between this year and 2021. The University Hospitals’ BRI A&E had 2,006 patients waiting for more than four hours between the decision to admit to admission - 862 waited 12 hours or longer. These waiting lists are up 10% and 22% respectively.

Meanwhile, 1,082 patients waited four or more hours inside NB’s A&E department - 433 experienced 12-hour or longer delays. These results represent a 28.8% and a whopping 633% increase compared to November 2021.

Neither department in Bristol experienced a dramatic rise in admissions, according to NHS England. UH saw 17,183 admissions in November 2022, up 7% from last year’s 16,049 patients while NB admitted 8,228 last month and 8,133 last November - just a 1% increase. Each A&E across England has a target that requires 95% of patients do not stay longer than four hours. Last month, just 68.9% of patients across the nation were seen within this time frame.

Both Bristol departments are below this national average, with UH seeing 56.2% of patients within four hours and NB seeing 58.3%.

National Clinical Director for Urgent and Emergency Care, Professor Julian Redhead insists NHS staff are powering through this winter despite “a perfect storm of pressures”.

Dr Redhead said: “Despite the ongoing pressures on services which are exacerbated by flu hospitalisations, issues in social care meaning we cannot discharge patients who are ready, and record numbers needing A&E, staff have powered through to bring down some of our longest waits for care.

“We have already said we are dealing with a perfect storm of pressures this winter, including increased demand for emergency care, and today announced an expansion of mental health crisis services which will ensure people suffering a mental health crisis get the help they need as quickly as possible, and reduce the chances of a patient needing to go to A&E.

“That is all on top of the measures announced NHS’ winter plan published in October which includes new hubs dedicated to respiratory infections and a falls response service to free up ambulance capacity. But the public can also play its part by using the best services for their care – using 111 services for urgent medical advice and 999 in an emergency – and to come forward for vaccinations, if eligible, to protect you and others around you against serious illness.”