New data released by NHS England for January shows that just 88.7% of patients were seen within four hours of arriving in A&E, the NHS have a target percentage of 95%. That is the worst monthly performance since the target was introduced in 2004.
However, NHS England have said that due to the record demand levels also recorded for the same month, a performance dip was ‘not surprising’.
Record demand levels include overall attendances increased by over 10% compared to January 2015 and emergency admissions and calls to the NHS 111 non emergency number saw a sharp rise.
Other key issues
January’s monthly performance report also highlighted other areas the NHS is struggling with:
• Key target for cancer patients to start treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral from a GP was missed for the 20th time in 21 months
• The number of people waiting six weeks or longer for a diagnosis was twice the amount expected
• Second month in a row that the target for patients needing a routine operation to be seen was not hit
• One in three patients waited longer than eight minutes for an ambulance to arrive, the eighth month in a row this target has been missed
• NHS 111 failed to hit its target to answer calls within 60 seconds
Another continued problem is the delays in discharging patients, with the second highest number of delays on record occurring in January. Such delays result in a backlog of patients, which in turn has an effect on A&E services.
Richard Barker, from NHS England, said:
“Against this backdrop it’s not surprising hospitals saw a dip in their performance and it is credit to all those working in emergency care that we are still admitting, treating and discharging almost nine in 10 patients within four hours
“Winter pressures have come late this year with a sustained cold period and an increase in seasonal infections.”
The BBC reported in January that hospitals are increasingly being forced to take extreme measures in order to cope. Such measures include reports of GPs being advised to cut down on the number of hospital referrals and makeshift emergency treatment rooms are being set up outside A&E waiting areas. There have even been reports of hospitals cancelling multiple routine operations at once.
Dr Cliff Mann, of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:
“It is now routine for many staff to arrive at work faced with congested and overcrowded departments in which it is impossible to deliver best care.
“Similarly many leave work, hours after their agreed finish time, exhausted by the scale of the task.”
According to John Appleby, of the King’s Fund, the NHS was facing a “perfect storm”.
“Today’s figures underline the scale of the challenge for NHS trusts struggling to meet demand for services within current financial constraints.
“Most trusts are operating with very high bed occupancy which makes it difficult to respond to unexpected fluctuations in admissions. This is compounded by delays in discharging patients, which prevents beds being freed up for new patients. Today’s figures suggest it will be a long winter for the NHS.”
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Source: BBC News