A chart that answers the question “Is A & E really in crisis?”

NHS Waiting Times pie chart for blog

The media continue to report on the NHS crisis in A & E with sad and worrying stories about what is happening in our hospitals.

But are these stories just a few unrepresentative one-offs that the media have found to create a false, but newsworthy story? Or is this a more widespread problem?

The bar chart I did on this issue is here, but on reflection I think the simple pie chart above may help illuminate things even more starkly.

There are 254 Trusts that have an A & E department, but this chart only looks at the “type 1” A and E departments. Why only look at type 1 departments?

Type 1 departments are the ones that a consultant led 24 hour service with full resuscitation facilities and designated accommodation for the reception of A & E patients. The type 1 department are the ones that deal with the most serious and life threatening cases.

Long waiting times in non-type 1 A & E departments that only deal with minor injuries is unpleasant for patients and clearly unacceptable. However, long waiting times in type 1 departments can lead to serious long-term complications and even fatalities. These are the ones we should all be the most concerned about, hence the focus on the 140 type 1 A & E departments.

I’m not going to pass any partisan comment on whether Jeremy Hunt and the coalition government are doing a good a job running our NHS, as I the chart can tell its own story.

The data for the graph came from the Guardian data blog here.

A geeky data visualisation aside

Data visualisation geeks who follow the general principles espoused by data visualisation gurus such as Edward Tufte and Stephen Few may balk at my use of a pie chart. I agree with both of them that for charts with more than two categories of data, a bar chart is always easier to interpret. However, for a chart with binary categories, such as with this data, a pie chart can be an easy to understand chart.

If you want to understand bar charts are generally better than pie charts, take a look below.

Whhy bar charts are better than pie chartsFor more info and to read the site where the example above comes from, go here:



Graph of Accident & Emergency Waiting Times

NHS Waiting Times

With waiting times in Accident and Emergency (A & E) departments hitting the news recently I thought a graph might give the bigger picture. The graph above shows the percentage of A & E patients seen within the 4 hour target. Please note:

  1. This only looks at the major “Type 1” A & E departments (Type 1 A & E depts are a consultant led 24 hour service with full resuscitation facilities & designated accommodation for the reception of A & E).
  2. The data for the graph came from the Guardian data blog here.
  3. Due to space limitations on vertical axis not every trust is labelled but every trust is shown by a coloured bar. To see the figures for every trust, check the spreadsheet used to create the graph which is here.
  4. The green bars are the trusts that meet the national target for 95 per cent or more of patients to be seen within 4 hours; the red bars are the ones that fail to meet the target.

I make no comment on whether Jeremy Hunt and the Coalition Government are doing a good job of running (ruining?) our NHS, as I will let the colours on the graph tell their own story, and then you can decide for yourself.