ONLY two-thirds of people who arrived at accident and emergency at NCIC were seen within four hours in January during a ‘long, challenging’ month for the health service in Cumbria.

The NHS standard is for 95 per cent of patients to be seen within four hours. However, the Government announced a two-year plan to stabilise NHS services earlier this year, which set a recovery target of 76 per cent of patients being seen within four hours by March 2024.

NHS England figures show there were 10,526 visits to A&E at NCIC in January. Of them, 6,536 were seen within four hours – accounting for 62 per cent of arrivals.

It means the trust fell significantly short of the recovery target and the NHS standard.

1,383 patients waited longer than four hours, including 732 who were delayed by more than 12 hours.

A spokesperson for NCIC said: “January was a long, and somewhat challenging month with long dark nights, storms and ice as well as further industrial action. 

“Despite this and the fact we had over 10,500 emergency attendances and over 3,000 emergency admissions, we were able to see people more quickly than in December.

“In our urgent treatment centres, we saw almost everybody (98.9 per cent) within four hours.”

Separate figures show that tens of thousands of patients were waiting for routine treatment across North Cumbria.

NHS England figures show 38,061 patients were waiting for non-urgent elective operations or treatment at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust at the end of December – up slightly from 37,904 in November, and 37,856 in December 2022.

Of those, 881 (2 per cent) had been waiting for longer than a year.

10,157 patients were waiting for one of 12 standard tests, such as an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy at this time.

Of them, 2,595 (26 per cent) had been waiting for at least six weeks.

Other figures show cancer patients at the North Cumbria Integrated Care Trust are not being seen quickly enough.

The NHS states 85 per cent of cancer patients with an urgent referral should start treatment within 62 days.

But NHS England data shows just 59 per cent of cancer patients urgently referred to the North Cumbria Integrated Care Trust in December began treatment within two months of their referral.

That was up from 56 per cent in November, but down from 64 per cent in December 2022.

A spokesperson for NCIC said: “In December, our overall diagnostics waiting list decreased, however due to the industrial action and bank holiday period, the number of patients who were seen within 6 weeks has decreased.

Although 6,482 patients started their treatment with us in December, a further 6,639 patients were referred to treatment (RTT). This meant a slight increase in our RTT waiting list; however, patients are waiting less time to begin their treatment with us.

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“We are pleased to note there has been an improvement in the number of patients who received a decision to treat cancer within 31 days and those who began their treatment within 62 days.

“However, we did see a slight decrease in patients being diagnosed within 28 days and we recognise there is still more to be done.

“It has been an extremely challenging winter so far with two periods of industrial action, including the longest strike in NHS history last month, so the notable improvements in performance in many areas at the Trust is a testament to the continued hard work and dedication of our staff.”