Bournemouth and Poole Hospitals meet targets on A&E waiting times

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The latest stats show there was a slight improvement on A&E waiting times in Kent last month, with 78% being seen within four hours - up from 73% in December.

And record numbers of patients faced long trolley waits, with 1,043 patients waited for more than 12 hours for a bed after doctors had decided they should be admitted.

They are a setback for Jeremy Hunt, the health and social care secretary, who has ordered the NHS to improve its performance against the best-known of the various NHS-wide waiting time targets.

Separate figures today also revealed the longest wait recorded in December, which is when the brunt of the crisis began, was 23 hours and 59 minutes.

Meanwhile, the proportion of patients receiving A&E-type care at all types of settings within the four-hour window climbed to 85.3% last month.

The number of patients waiting more than four hours in all A&E departments, including minor injuries units and specialist centres, was 85.3 per cent, the second worst recorded. "In terms of pressures on the system, I think it probably is the worst ever because we've got very high levels of demand", he said.

I take responsibility for everything that happens in the NHS.

81,003 patients waited for more than four hours to be seen, treated or discharged.

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Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the figures demonstrate how the NHS does "not now have a sustainable model" to cope during the busy winter months when illnesses such as flu and norovoris are more prevalent.

"Our focus is always on trying to achieve those headline national targets because we see those as a measure of quality and experience for patients, and a measure of staff and the way they are caring for patients", he said. PHE said flu levels remain high but are continuing to stabilise across the UK.

"The appalling human stories arising from the worst winter crisis on record have shocked the nation".

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: "Last year we coined the phrase "eternal winter", but the last month and a half has shown an even steeper decline as demonstrated by all the data available - particularly around the four-hour emergency target".

Justin Madders, Labour's shadow health minister, insisted Hunt's comments showed the government was "entirely out of touch" with the reality of the crisis facing the NHS.

There is consensus among think tanks and politicians on all sides, including the Conservative chair of the Health Select committee, Sarah Wollaston, that the NHS needs at least £4bn a year more to keep up with demand, a figure backed by NHS England's chief executive Simon Stevens.

'It was better than both the month before, and was better too than the same time last winter.

Last week NHS England effectively abandoned the 95% four-hour target for at least a year, using a planning document circulated to hospital trusts to indicate it did not expect the figure to be met across the country until spring 2019.

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