NHS Providers responds to 'relentless pressure' on urgent and emergency care services

26 January 2023

Responding to the winter sit-rep data from NHS England today, which shows pressure persists as bed occupancy levels and delayed discharge remain high, Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive at NHS Providers said:

"The pressure on urgent and emergency care services is relentless. Trust leaders are doing all they can to deliver high-quality, timely patient care, and have made remarkable progress on reducing ambulance handover delays in the last week despite higher A&E arrivals.

"However, much more needs to be done to tackle the growing list of challenges facing the NHS, including sky-high staff vacancies, unfunded pay awards and escalating strike action.

"As trust leaders prepare for the biggest NHS staff walkout in less than two weeks, they are having to grapple with unsafe levels of bed occupancy as 93.8% of general and acute ward beds were taken up each day last week.

"Patients are staying longer in hospital than they were this time last year, often because their illnesses are more serious, while delayed discharge remains very high, with 13,566 medically fit patients – nearly two thirds – unable to leave. This is partly due to the lack of investment in capacity in social care and community services.

"All of these stresses are impacting care right through the system, including ambulances, hospital A&Es, mental health and community services. The forthcoming urgent and emergency care recovery plan from NHS England needs to set out a sustainable route towards improved performance by reducing bed occupancy and increasing bed numbers across the service.

"We also need the government to publish its fully funded and costed workforce plan to address staff shortages, as well as help avert more strikes by urgently sitting down with the unions to negotiate pay for this financial year."

You can follow our analysis of the latest winter figures from NHS England through our NHS Winter Watch campaign.