Patients are more likely to die if they endure long waits in A&E before being admitted to a hospital bed, according to new research carried out partly in Bolton.

The study, published in the Emergency Medicine Journal, found waiting longer than five hours in A&E increased the risk of dying from any cause within 30 days, with the risks going up the longer people waited.

Medics say the issue has got worse since the study was carried out, with one saying the four-hour A&E target, due to be scrapped, is of “key importance to patient safety”.

The new study, focusing on the Royal Bolton Hospital and Taunton’s Musgrove Park Hospital, examined data from more than five million patients in England who were admitted to major A&E departments between April 2016 and March 2018.

The results showed waiting longer than five hours in A&E increased the risk of dying. The “greatest change” was an eight per cent increase among those patients who waited in emergency departments more than six to eight hours before being admitted.

For every 82 admitted patients who waited more than six to eight hours for a bed, there is one extra death, the researchers said.

The data further indicates a 10 per cent increased risk of death for patients stuck in A&E for eight to 12 hours in comparison with those who leave within six hours.

Researchers from NHS England and Improvement and the hospitals, concluded the extra deaths are caused by delays to hospital admission from A&E departments rather than crowding alone.

They looked at deaths compared with what would normally be expected when taking into account sex, age, deprivation, existing health issues, previous A&E attendances and crowding in the department at the time of the attendance.

Derek Prentice, lay member for the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “Let nobody be in doubt any longer – the NHS four-hour operational target is, as many of us have always known, of key importance to patient safety.”

Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, added: “(This) adds to the evidence of what we have long warned – long waiting times present a serious threat to patient safety. Performance in emergency departments has been in decline for many years now, while waiting times have risen significantly.

“The risk to patient safety is a growing problem. It is unacceptable and deeply concerning. No patient should be kept waiting to be admitted to a bed.”