In October, only 62% of patients at A&E departments at Oxford University Hospitals were seen within four hours, falling short of the usual NHS standard of 95% and the revised 2024 NHS standard of 76%.
Plans to reassess target wait times in A&E departments were announced by the NHS in 2019 but subsequently halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic, wait times have increased significantly and the NHS has been forced to return to the issue.
While previous standards aimed to have 95% of patients admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, hospitals are now striving to see 76% of cases within four hours by 2024. This is a significant decrease from previous goals but would mark an improvement upon the record nationwide low of 65% of cases handled within four hours in December of 2022. With only 70% of cases seen within four hours this October, however, it is unlikely the NHS will meet their new goal.
Oxford is expected to have particular difficulty meeting the revised NHS goals. This October, only 62% of patients at A&E departments in Oxford University Hospitals were taken care of within four hours.
A first-year student at Pembroke, Mali Wood, spent eight hours at the John Radcliffe Hospital Emergency Department with a sprained ankle. She told Cherwell that, despite the staff’s best efforts, “it felt like no one was being seen.” Mali was seen by a nurse within two hours and had an X-ray taken, but to receive the results for that X-ray, she had to wait six hours. Surrounded by helpful friends and able to work on her essay despite mild pain, Mali managed to endure her all-night hospital visit. Unfortunately, some of the children and older patients did not find the wait as easy.
The average wait time before being seen at the John Radcliffe Hospital is four hours, while the Horton General Hospital in Banbury has an average wait time of three hours. Wait times for ambulances are similarly long. Three Oxford students who called an ambulance for a patient with alcohol poisoning near St Hilda’s report having to monitor the patient for 30 minutes before an ambulance could arrive. Oxford East MP and Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds says she regularly hears from constituents “who are scared that in an emergency there’s no guarantee an ambulance will arrive on time, if at all.”
In nearby Banbury, Conservative MP Victoria Prentis encourages patients to help reduce wait times: “It is important that people follow NHS guidance in using A&E for genuine life-threatening emergencies.” She believes wait times are moving in the right direction. Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran does not agree, maintaining that “the Tory government has failed to tackle the crisis in our NHS and is putting patients’ lives at risk.” Moran finds these wait times evidence that the NHS is beyond the “breaking point” and “splitting at the seams.”
When approached for comment, Sara Randall, Chief Operating Officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust told Cherwell, “We make every effort to try and reduce the length of time that patients have to wait to be seen in our Emergency Departments.
“Patients will always be seen in the order of clinical priority, with the sickest patients being seen first. We have worked hard to successfully reduce the longest waits in our Emergency Departments. I would like to apologise to any patient who has still experienced a long waiting time. Our Emergency Departments do have busier times, such as in the late evenings, and waits can be longer then.”