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17
Sep

Long-term plan for the NHS needs radical thinking


The latest NHS England performance figures bring no respite for a system under pressure. 

 

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector says: “This may look like an NHS that is failing - one target after another not being met. In reality it is anything but - this is a service that is stretching every sinew to meet rising demand, but it simply does not have the means to do so.”   

 

The key statistics reveal continued pressure on A&E departments as winter approaches. The number of people attending A&E in the last 12 months has increased by 3.2% and the number admitted to hospital as an emergency has increased by 5.2%. In August 2018, 89.7% of patients were seen within four hours compared to 90.3% in August 2017.

 

“Behind the cold impersonal figures are real patients with real stories and staff, too many of whom are under incredible strain. Targets such as a limit of four hours to wait in A&E, how long it takes to see a specialist doctor, the number of patients unable to get out of hospital - all these can spell individual patient misery and overstretched staff. 

 

“A&E visits have increased by 22% in a decade - that means we cannot go on as we are. It will take time but we have to change the model, to support patients in their communities with hospital becoming the last not first resort.”

 

Almost 16 million patients started treatment in the last 12 months - a 1.3% increase on the previous year, but at the end of July 2018 there were 4.1 million on the waiting list for treatment. The waiting list increased by 7% when compared to a year earlier. Of those waiting, 87.8% had been waiting for 18 weeks or less, a fall from 89.9% in July 2017.

 

Dickson continues: “England is about to have a long-term plan - it is a chance to roll out a different approach but it will need radical thinking and more investment in GP, community health and social services. 

 

“Every day, NHS staff across the country are doing their very best - but there are more than 100,000 vacancies - they cannot work miracles. The truth is the NHS has not met key performance targets since 2015, whether it is winter, spring, summer, or autumn.

 

“As winter looms, the NHS and our social care colleagues will do everything to prevent another season of misery, but they will need more support from the centre.”

 

Among the positive news in the statistics, delayed transfers of care have reduced - 4,516 beds were occupied each day in July 2018 by a patient subject to a delayed transfer of care compared to 5,867 in July 2017. Cancer waiting times have also improved.

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