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The latest NHS England figures revealed a 20% increase on 2022 in people facing lengthy delays after a decision to admit them to hospital from the emergency department.
In 2023, 419,560 people – or one in 15 A&E patients – faced so-called “trolley waits” of 12 hours or more, the party said.
It marks by far the highest number since records began in 2011, and amounts to an average of 1,150 patients a day.
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey criticised the “appalling delays” and accused Rishi Sunak’s government of “ignoring the suffering of patients and driving our health service into the ground”.
The party also pointed to a postcode lottery, with almost half of patients of some trusts, such as the North Middlesex University Hospital Trust, waiting more than half a day.
Significant waits in A&E have been linked to excess deaths and increased harm to patients, as their condition could deteriorate before they are admitted or given a bed on a ward.
Sir Ed 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.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Our urgent and emergency care recovery plan is already cutting both A&E waits and ambulance response times compared to last year – but we know there is more to do.
“We are on track to deliver an additional 5,000 permanent staffed hospital beds this winter and have met our target to deliver 10,000 virtual ward beds, allowing patients to recover from the comfort of familiar surroundings.
“We recently provided £800 million to support capacity in the NHS and help patients get the care they need as quickly as possible this winter.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub