The NHS has a target that all patients should be treated within four hours of arriving at the emergency room. This is a laudable goal, but it has lead to some unexpected consequences: patient stacking. According to the Daily Mail, (‘A&E patients left in ambulances…‘), “Thousands of people a year are having to wait outside accident and emergency departments because trusts will not let them in until they can treat them within four hours, in line with a Labour pledge.” According to the Daily Mail figures, 43,576 patients waited longer than one hour before being let into emergency units.
A department of health spokesperson noted that there are 4.3 million patient emergency journeys per year so according to the Daily Mail figures, just over 1% of individuals waited more than one hour due to patient stacking. While 1-2% of emergency journeys does not seem like a lot, it does mean that about 120 people every day wait more than one hour to enter the emergency room.