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The sub 50 per cent club

It is easy to forget 2018 was supposed to be the year NHS England got the system’s accident and emergency performance back to hitting the 95 per cent benchmark, which hadn’t been met since July 2015.

The 2018 compliance target was only set out in the Next Steps on the Five Year Forward View last March but has, of course, since been postponed. And the most recent figures, published on Thursday, were a further illustration of why.

Performance against the four hour accident and emergency target hit its lowest level in 15 years last month, with two trusts sinking below 50 per cent.

Long term A&E strugglers Blackpool Teaching Hospitals and Hillingdon Hospitals both recorded performance under 50 per cent for major type one emergency attendances last month.

Other trusts that were close to joining Blackpool and Hillingdon in the sub 50 per cent club were Lancashire Teaching Hospitals (53.3 per cent) and Worcestershire Acute Hospitals (56.8 per cent).

The figures will no doubt give ministers food for thought as they prepare their new long term plan for the NHS, as will the drop in the performance data between February and March, usually a period in which performance starts improving.

They also underline why the public is becoming increasingly anxious about the state of the NHS and the widespread support for tax rises to increase funding, as shown by the King’s Fund timely attitudes study this week.