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Stats reveal NHS pushed to the limit as Winter arrives

The latest figures from NHS England and NHS Improvement show hospital performance is at its worst level on record.  Delays for care and A&E waiting times have reached their highest levels, in the face of steadily rising demand.


The total number of attendances in A&E in October was 2,170,510 – an increase of 4.4% on the same month last year. Emergency admissions also rose by 3.1% over the same month last year.


Only 83.6% of patients were seen within the four-hour target in all A&E departments in October compared to 85.2% in September and 89.1% in October 2018. The 95% standard was last met in July 2015.


Perhaps even more concerning is the statistic that there were 80,092 four-hour delays from decision to admit to admission in October, which compares to 49,014 in October 2018.  Of these, 726 were delayed for longer than 12 hours – compared to 214 in the same month last year. 


“These performance figures paint a bleak picture for the health service as it approaches the busy winter months in a worse position than we have before,” says Saffron Cordery, Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers.


“Performance against the four hour standard in October is at its lowest since records began – but staff are seeing more patients than this time last year. There are now more people waiting longer than 18 weeks for routine operations than we have seen in over a decade. And worryingly, we are continuing to miss key cancer stats routinely.

“This decline comes on the back of an incredibly busy summer and record-breaking demand. NHS staff have been working flat out all year round, but no matter how hard they work, the health and care system is not able to keep pace with the demands placed on it. This is pushing the dedication of NHS staff and exasperating already severe workforce challenges.


“If we are going to turn this around we need the resources to meet this demand – that’s investment in facilities and equipment in hospitals and in the community, that’s investment in our existing staff, solving the pensions crisis forcing senior staff into retirement and protecting the ability for the service to recruit the staff it needs. But we need to be realistic about the time this will take.”


This is a worrying picture as we move into Winter pressures.

John Appleby, Nuffield Trust’s Chief Economist Professor, says: “These figures show the next Government will immediately be faced with one of the bleakest winters in the NHS’s history. We have many months to go until seasonal pressures really hit the NHS, but October has already seen an unprecedented slump with performance against the main A&E target worse than ever. The health service is seeing far more patients, yet one in six is now waiting more than four hours in A&E. If the usual trends continue after Christmas, that would head towards one in five.


“Meanwhile the number of people waiting on trolleys in corridors because no beds are available has already hit 80,000 – something we have only seen before in the very coldest part of the year. If this trend keeps going, I fear we could see 100,000 people stuck on trolleys this coming January.”


He adds: We should be under no illusion about the money, staff and time it will take to turn this situation around.”