Record 420,000 patients faced 12-hour A&E waits in 2023

15 Jan 2024

EMBARGO: 22.30 Sunday 14 January 2023 

  • 1,150 patients a day faced ‘trolley waits’ in A&E of 12 hours or more last year

  • Seventy fold increase in 12-hour delays compared to four years ago

  • In some areas almost one in two patients faced delays of 12 hours or more

  • Lib Dems warn funding cuts risk “pouring petrol over the fire” of NHS crisis

A record 420,000 patients waited more than 12 hours to be admitted to hospital from A&E in 2023, up 20% on the previous year, new analysis by the Liberal Democrats has revealed. It means an average of 1,150 patients a day faced waits of 12 hours more to be admitted to hospital last year. 

The Liberal Democrats said the “appalling delays” were being caused by years of Conservative neglect, and warned Rishi Sunak’s plans to slash healthcare funding would “pour petrol” over the flames of the NHS crisis.

The latest data from NHS England shows how long people are left waiting after a decision to admit them to hospital  - also known as “trolley waits.”  The figures show there has been a staggering seventy fold rise in 12-hour delays at A&E in recent years. 

In 2019, just 8,272 people waited 12 hours or more to be admitted to hospital at A&E, making up around 0.1% of all emergency admissions that year. This increased to 419,560 in 2023, with over one in fifteen (6.7%) patients at A&E waiting 12 hours or more to be admitted. It means the proportion of patients waiting 12 hours or more to be admitted is almost seventy times higher in 2023 than it was before the last general election. The number of 12 hour A&E admission delays last year was by the far the highest since records started being recorded in 2011.

The analysis also reveals a stark postcode lottery with almost one in two patients in some areas facing waits of 12 hours or more to be admitted to hospital from A&E. In December 2023, 44.5% of patients  North Middlesex University Hospital Trust faced 12 hour delays at A&E, the highest level in the country. This was followed by Warring and Halton Teaching Hospitals (37.5%), Croydon Health Services NHS Trust (32%) and Epsom And St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust (31.8%).

Research has found long A&E waits significantly increase the risk of patient harm, with the risk that conditions can worsen significantly before treatment can be given. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has previously estimated that there were 23,003 excess patient deaths in England in 2022 associated with long waits.

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to reverse its £5bn of real-terms cuts to NHS funding over this year and next. Figures in the Autumn Statement show the NHS budget has been cut by £3.5 billion (2.1%) in real terms this year (2023-24), and is set to fall by another £1.3 billion (0.8%) in 2024-25. Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak is handing banks a tax cut of £3.5 billion a year through cuts to the Bank Surcharge and Bank Levy.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said:

“Every year A&E delays are getting worse and worse under this Conservative government as hospitals are starved of the resources and staff they need. These appalling delays are leaving often vulnerable and elderly patients waiting for hours on end in overcrowded A&Es. 

“It is simply unthinkable that Rishi Sunak is now choosing to slash funding for the NHS further, while handing big tax cuts to the banks. This will just pour petrol on the flames of the NHS crisis.

“People deserve so much better than this Conservative government that is ignoring the suffering of patients and driving our health service into the ground. Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to fix the NHS and ensure people can access the care they need.”


Notes to Editor:

Full analysis including breakdown by NHS trust is available here.




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