The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

Internal figures leaked to HSJ show the true volume of 12-hour waiters in emergency departments is more than four times higher than official statistics suggest.

The numbers for February and March show around 158,000 cases of people waiting more than 12 hours from arrival until being admitted to a ward, much higher than the official stats, which measure the period from “decision to admit” to admission. There were around 39,000 of these cases in the same two months.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has long called for the official stats to reflect the total time spent from arrival in ED (as per the internal data), and for trusts to be measured and regulated on this.

The NHS standard contract for 2022-23 says trusts should record this, although NHS England has not yet revealed when and how the data will be published.

Adrian Boyle, vice president of RCEM, said: “This data show the scale of long waiting times in emergency departments and the scale of the patient safety crisis. Performance continues to deteriorate across multiple metrics meaning we are documenting a failing urgent and emergency care system without any system transformation or improvement.

“We know NHS trusts measure and collect 12-hour data from time of arrival, but NHS England do not yet publish it. Only when we acknowledge and recognise the true scale of the challenge in front of us can we tackle the root of the urgent and emergency care crisis.”

Enough troops to fight the war?

Increasing the target for cancer diagnosis features among measures being considered in the “war on cancer”, HSJ understands.

The government might seek to better the existing target for cancer diagnosis, which is to diagnose 75 per cent of cancers at stage one and two by 2028.

At present, performance is around 54 per cent and late stage diagnosis is a key factor behind the UK’s poor performance on cancer mortality, compared with other wealthy nations.

It is not known what the new percentage might be but there is some scepticism over whether, particularly following the pandemic, the NHS could hit the existing target, not to mention a tougher one.

The Royal College of Radiologists pointed out in February that there was a shortfall of nearly 2,000 consultant radiologists and 20 per cent fewer consultant oncologists to meet the existing gaps.

Also on today

Finish the week with our Health Check podcast, which this week looks at the NHS staff survey’s findings and in particular their worrying verdict on the People Directorate. And Julian Patterson reports on the most important review of general practice since the last one…