NHS bosses have said there is cause for "cautious optimism" after waiting times for patients in accident and emergency departments seem to be improving, according to the latest figures.
This is welcome news after there were troubling reports suggesting that many hospitals were falling short of the four-hour target waiting times. The latest figures suggested that 92.9 per cent of people who go to hospital for an emergency are seen within this window, which is a slight improvement on the 92.3 per cent the week before.
However, this is still below the 95 per cent target, which has not been achieved on a weekly basis since September last year.
Dr Sarah Pinto-Duschinsky, director of operations and delivery for NHS England, said the performance in A&E has "moved in the right direction" week-on-week, giving cause for cautious optimism. She added that more than nine out of ten patients will be admitted, treated and discharged within four hours.
This, according to Dr Pinto-Duschinsky, has been achieved in a time where there is increased pressure on accident and emergency departments, with both attendances and emergency admissions having risen.
She added that winter pressures were also having their effect on the health service. Dr Pinto-Duschinsky said: "The cold can contribute to heightened levels of respiratory illness - particularly among the elderly and those with long terms conditions.
"The message is to stay warm, stock up with your usual medicines and make full use of your local pharmacist."
This improvement has come despite a rise in attendances from 401,000 to 407,400 across England but some of the country's largest A&E units are still struggling.
The shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the figures show that many hospitals in England are still at their limits, which are "sailing dangerously close to the wind".
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