Therese Coffey today revealed how she was forced to wait nine hours in A&E this summer only to be told to go home.
The Health Secretary’s own experience, told in the House of Commons, illustrates the scale of the NHS‘s emergency care crisis.
Tens of thousands of Britons face 12-hour casualty waits every month.
Detailing her own horrifying A&E delay, Dr Coffey told MPs she was treated swiftly after visiting a different, nearby hospital the next day.
Her account came as she unveiled her NHS rescue plan, including her main pledge for patients to be able to see a GP within two weeks.
The Health Secretary’s own experience, told in the House of Commons, illustrates the scale of the NHS’s emergency care crisis
NHS data published today show 1.14 million Britons spent at least half a day stuck in waiting rooms or corridors between April 2021 and March 2022
Pledging a ‘laser-like’ focus on tackling problems throughout the health service, she claimed there was ‘too much variation in the access and care people receive across the country’.
Labour said the message being Dr Coffey delivered to patients effectively amounted to ‘get on your bike’ and find treatment elsewhere.
Replying to questions about her emergency blueprint in the Commons, she ruled out rumours that she was considering scrapping A&E four-hour waits.
Under current guidelines, 95 per cent of patients should be admitted, transferred or discharged within the 240 minutes.
Emergency unit data shows that three in 10 Britons were forced to wait longer than four hours in A&E departments in August, while nearly one thousand per day waited for 12 hours (monthly data provided by NHS England, which is different to the NHS Digital dataset)
Ambulance response times recovered slightly in August but the time taken for paramedics to arrive on the scene was still well above targets
But the target has not been met since 2015. There have been four Prime Ministers in that time.
Dr Coffey said: ‘I can absolutely say there will be no changes to the target for a four-hour wait in A&E.
‘I believe it matters, and I’ll give you a personal experience recently. Just in July I went to A&E, I waited nearly nine hours myself to see a doctor and I still didn’t get any treatment.
‘I was asked to go back the next day, so I went to a different hospital just three miles away and I was seen and treated appropriately.
‘That’s the sort of variation that we’re seeing across the NHS.’
Social media users, however, questioned whether she truly needed A&E, given that she was ‘able to wait and go home’.
It comes after damning figures last week revealed that more than a million patients faced 12-hour waits in busy A&E units between April 2021 and March 2022.
NHS statistics showed the toll was three times higher than during the same period the year before.
It made last year the busiest ever in A&E, as casualty units battled Covid as well as the knock-on effects of the pandemic and day-to-day pressures.
The NHS says the current crisis is being driven by so-called ‘bed blockers’, which Dr Coffey has also vowed to clamp down on.
Another of her immediate priorities is access issues with GPs, which leading experts have suggested is adding to A&E pressures, with patients resorting to casualty units because they can’t get their ailments checked by a doctor.