Though more people are facing long waits in NHS accident & emergency departments than ever before, three-quarters of respondents in the latest NHS A&E statistics rate their experience as 7/10 or better.

The A&E 2012 survey is the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) annual report on people’s experiences of treatment in A&E departments.

Commenting on the rise in average waiting time CQC chief executive David Behan said: “People should be seen, diagnosed, treated and admitted or discharged as quickly as possible and this is an issue that trusts need to urgently tackle.”

“It is, however, encouraging to see people’s perceptions of trust in clinicians and cleanliness continuing to be high and more people than ever saying that they have enough privacy when discussing conditions with receptionists.”

Last month, the regulator raised concerns that the current financial pressure on UK health and care services will have a negative impact on the standard of service received by patients.

The CQC spoke to nearly 50,000 patients, aged 16 or older, who attended an NHS A&E in January, February or March 2012.

Analysis of the figures showed one-third of those said they waited more than half an hour before they were first seen by a doctor or nurse, up from 24% in 2004 and 29% in 2008 while the same number reported that they had spent more than four total hours in A&E.

Confidence and trust in the doctors and nurses working in A&E Departments continues to be high, although there remains a small minority of patients who did not feel fully confident, with just under a fifth of respondents claiming staff did not do ‘everything they could’ to help control their pain.

Many respondents felt their interactions with doctors and nurses in A&E had been positive. However, in some areas, a substantial proportion reported communications that were unsatisfactory, in particular the 59% who said they were not told how long they would wait for their examination.

Transitions between services is another area where the CQC suggest “improvement is required”, reporting that almost a quarter of respondents who travel to A&E in an ambulance have to wait more than 15 minutes for their care to be transferred to A&E staff.

Health minister Dan Poulter concluded: “Rightly, the NHS has moved away from the narrow focus on the four-hour waiting standard which sometimes forced A&E staff to make a broken toe as much of a priority as a patient with potentially life-threatening chest pains.

“Meeting targets and ticking boxes does not ensure good patient care, and we are putting doctors and nurses in charge of making clinical decisions to ensure that the most sick patients in A&E are the highest priority.”

All of the reports are available here.

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