Jeremy Hunt finally says sorry as NHS patients suffer 'worst ever' winter

Waiting times at major A&E departments worst on record in January, figures reveal

NHS hospitals in England record worst ever A&E performance

"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.

The Health Secretary went on to say that "significantly more" money would need to be invested to ensure NHS staff do not face such uphill tasks year after year, although he stated doctors and nurses were aware of the predicament they could face when they entered the sector.

NHS England figures show just 85.3% of patients were seen in A&E departments within the waiting-time target of four hours last month.

NHS England said more than 1.7 million patients were seen within four hours last month, an increase of 5.72 per cent on the daily average for the same month previous year.

Jeremy Hunt has refused to apologise to NHS staff for record pressures this winter, saying in an interview that they knew what to expect when they "signed up".

The 77.1 per cent figure for Type 1 A&E departments, those staffed by consultants providing 24-7 emergency care, was the lowest on record, down from 77.3 in December.

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 norovirus are more prevalent.

Almost 7000 patients were seen within four hours or less out of a total of 7,500 people who attended the Bournemouth's A&E department. January's figure was even worse than December's - which broke records.

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In a separate report released today, it was revealed that just two ambulance trusts were hitting the time target for category one calls.

'Surgeons and other frontline NHS staff are working tirelessly to provide the best care possible to patients.

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

The Royal College of Nursing has called for proper investment in health and social care services to prevent this from happening again next winter.

Their warning came as Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, said the NHS had had its worst winter, and as statistics showed further deterioration in hospital performance.

She said "distressing scenes of frail elderly people in corridors on trolleys have become an all too familiar sight this winter", which is pushing people to quit the NHS. Neither of these were unpredictable, but both have combined to cause the issues that have been widely reported across the country.

An NHS England spokesman said: 'Despite the worst flu season in seven years, A&E performance improved this month.

'This was partly helped by the fact that NHS-related delayed transfers of care fell to their lowest in four years freeing up beds for patients needing emergency hospitalisation'.

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