Delays in A&E caused 23,000 excess deaths in England last year, according to shocking estimates. NHS data show more than 1.6 million patients waited for more than 12 hours in an emergency department from their time of arrival in 2022.
Research suggests that for every 72 patients who wait eight to 12 hours in A&E, there is one associated death.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said this meant 23,003 excess deaths were likely.
RCEM president Dr Adrian Boyle said: “Long-waiting times are asso- ciated with serious patient harm and patient deaths – the scale shown here for 2022 is deeply distressing.
“The data show how necessary it is to have transparent figures.”
The RCEM has warned the true scale of the A&E crisis has been “hidden” by monthly NHS statistics.
The health service routinely releases data on waiting times measured from when a decision is made to admit a patient to actual admission.
In 2022, 347,703 patients waited more than 12 hours under this measure. But this does not take into account the time patients wait to be seen after arriving.
Data from time of arrival, obtained by Freedom of Information requests, reveal that when that time is included, the number waiting more than 12 hours is almost five times higher.
Performance in A&Es collapsed this winter as hospitals battled high flu and Covid cases and staff shortages.
Meanwhile, 14,000 beds are occupied by patients fit to be discharged, many waiting for social care.
Dr Boyle called for more ambitious waiting times targets to ensure more patients are seen within four hours. He said: “Enabling timely discharge of patients will help free up beds.”
Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said people could no longer be sure the NHS would be there for them in an emergency.
He added: “24 hours in A&E isn’t just a TV programme, it is the reality for far too many patients.
“Labour will double medical school places and train 10,000 more nurses a year, paid for by abolishing non-doms, so patients are treated on time again.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “There are a wide variety of factors contributing to excess deaths and it is important not to ascribe them to one cause. It’s encouraging to see significant improvements in performance last month.
“We’ve published a comprehensive Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan which will allow people to be seen quicker by scaling up community teams, expanding virtual wards, and getting 800 new ambulances on the road.
“This is on top of £750million this winter to speed up hospital discharge and free up beds.”