Increase in trolley waits reflect health system running at full stretch

07 December 2016

BBC analysis has found that trolley waits have risen a quarter over the last 12 months (Oct 15 to Sept 16) from the same period in 2014/15. This year there were 473,453 waits of over four hours from the decision to admit. The figure represents 11.2% of patients admitted through A&E, up from 2.7% in 2010-11.

In December 2015, the data collected was altered to include waits for a bed where a patient is transferred to another provider. NHS England has suggested this adds 9% to the numbers or around 37,000 patients to the 15/16 figure.

The analysis also looks a hospital bed occupancy levels for the same period and finds that just 49 of the 179 hospital trusts have occupancy levels of 85% or below.  

We have an NHS which is running at – and sometimes beyond – full stretch

NHS Providers head of analysis, Siva Anandaciva said:

“These figures are worrying. Patients should not have to face long delays to be admitted to hospital once clinicians have decided it is necessary. But we owe it to NHS frontline staff to recognise they are dealing with unprecedented pressures. The numbers coming to A&E and being admitted have risen by nearly 5% year on year.

"That’s more than double the increase that most hospitals would have planned for. And they are treating many more older patients, often with complex conditions. Yet they have maintained a level of performance that is very high by international standards. We have an NHS which is running at – and sometimes beyond – full stretch.

"As we demonstrated in our recent report, the State of the NHS provider sector, many trusts are developing new ways of working to deal with the pressures affecting hospital, community and mental health services. They have shown what can be done with the right support and funding. Trusts will continue to do all they can, but we need fewer, more realistic targets. We also need to recognise that problems in social care have reached a tipping point and GPs are in danger of being overwhelmed. We have argued that targeted investment in these services would help to relieve wider pressures in the NHS."



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