Have failures in NHS A&E services become normalised?

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A senior doctor in Wales once said to me about NHS A&E performance in Wales that "we've normalised failure". Looking at today's figures, it's hard not to see where they were coming from.

In the middle of summer, the country's NHS has posted its busiest month on record and a set of numbers you'd normally expect in the middle of winter.

You can see how your A&E is doing here.

But in July, when there is no flu, cold weather isn't affecting chronic conditions and ice isn't leading to more slips, trips and falls, 99,522 people attended A&E. Targets state 95% of them should spend no longer than 4hours there. But, only 77% did. Government targets mean no patient should spend more than 12 hours in an emergency department. Yet, last month, 4,922 did.

The Welsh Government doesn't like comparing performance with England. It's not perfect but the NHS there, too, wants to see 95% of patients spend 4hours or less in A&E. In July in England, of 2.3m patients, the figure was 86.5%. Of that 2.3m, 436 were in A&E longer than 12 hours.

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These figures say nothing of the hard work and dedication of staff, but everything about the conditions and demands that they're working under.

As Dr Jo Mower, Vice President of RCEM Wales says: “This summer Emergency Departments across Wales have not experienced any respite from increasing attendances or a reduction in admissions as in previous years."

You don't have to look far on social media to find NHS staff concerned about what next winter will bring, when they don't feel like they've had a summer at all.

The Welsh Government accepts last month was "extremely challenging" but that "despite these pressures the vast majority of people have received timely advice, care and treatment."

But year after year, that vast majority appears to get smaller.