Hospitals in England to be offered cash incentives for tackling 12-hour A&E wait times

File photo of NHS ambulances parked outside the accident and emergency department of St Thomas' Hospital in central London.
Credit: PA

Cash incentives are to be offered to hospitals that do not leave patients waiting in A&E for 12 hours or more, under new NHS England plans.

Up to £150 million will be put aside for hospitals with the "highest performance" and "greatest improvement in performance", according to the plans.

The use of virtual wards will also increase in order to free up space in emergency departments, with hospitals encouraged to refer more patients there.

The NHS has "hailed" its own improvements in a letter to hospital trusts, claiming that last year was the first outside of the pandemic since 2009 that more patients in A&E were seen within four hours.

The latest figures showed more than 42,000 people waited more than 12 hours in A&E departments in April, down slightly from 42,968 in March.

However, around 74% of patients were seen within four hours last month. The NHS target is 76%.

This target will rise to 78% by March 2025, which still remains below the 95% target set out in 2010.

Sarah-Jane Marsh, national director for urgent and emergency care at NHS England, hailed the “hard work of NHS staff” for what she described as a year of “considerable progress in the recovery of urgent and emergency care services", but added: "There is still much further to go."

Mr Anandaciva said the plan for “gradual improvements” comes at a time when the health service is “in crisis”.

“It has been nearly a decade since A&E performance targets were reliably met, and there is little prospect of performance substantially improving in the near future.

“It is patients and staff who are bearing the brunt of the sharp deterioration in NHS performance over the past 10 years.”

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