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03
Mar

Bed blocking increases pressures on stretched NHS


The quarterly analysis of NHS performance by NHS Improvement reveals one of the most challenging winters on record with a huge increase in demand for urgent and emergency care.

“Our analysis shows that 5.34 million patients attended providers’ A&E units between October and December 2016, which is 200,000 more than at the same period last year. Providers also saw a 3.5% increase in the number of patients requiring major further in-hospital treatment,” says Jim Mackey, Chief Executive of NHS Improvement.

“This intense demand for emergency treatment coupled with a significant reduction in bed availability has led to providers collectively underperforming against several key national healthcare standards, and having to postpone some planned care. However, these pressures have been compounded by providers losing 390,392 ‘bed days’ between October and December 2016 - a 28% increase on the same period last year - because of issues with discharging medically fit patients due to constraints on community or social care.

“NHS providers are treating more patients than ever before, which is a tribute to the hard work and commitment of their staff.  But times are extremely challenging, and things are unlikely to get any easier in the short term. However, we’re fully committed to helping providers improve their services for patients now and tomorrow.”

There has been some loss of income for providers as a result of the focus on emergency treatment and a reduction in planned care. In spite of that the sector’s financial position is £1.3 billion better than at the same point last year, ending the quarter £886m in deficit. In addition, 135 providers ended the quarter in deficit; 44 fewer than the same period last year.

In addition, it is reported that measures to curb excessive agency staff spending are having a positive impact, with two thirds of providers reporting reduced agency costs.

“We’re very thankful that most providers have worked hard to improve their finances and deliver quality health and care to their populations over the last nine months. However, the job is not done yet and we need each and every organisation to play its part,” concludes Jim Mackey.

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