Performance falling back in the face of unprecedented demand

09 February 2017

NHS performance figures obtained by the BBC, reported earlier today, suggested that performance against the main four hour target in A&E fell to a new low last month. The leaked data, which was not verified, indicated the overall figure for patients admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours was 82%.

The BBC also reported that trolley waits were also the longest on record, with 780 people waiting for more than 12 hours, and more than 60,000 people waiting between four and 12 hours after a decision had been made to admit them.

The official figures for December 2016 subsequently released by NHS England show the proportion of patients admitted, transferred or discharged from all A&E departments fell to 86.2%. For major A&E departments the figure was 79.3%.

Delayed transfers of care were close to record levels. There were 195,300 delayed days, and the proportion attributable to social care rose to 36%.

Responding to the BBC’s figures the chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said:

“These figures have not been verified and should therefore be treated with caution, but they are in line with the feedback we have been getting from trusts. The headline of 82% of patients being admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours indicates a further slippage in overall performance in the face of unprecedented demand.

These figures for December reflect the enormous pressures on the health service as winter started to take hold


“NHS staff have responded magnificently to increased winter pressures, but the situation has become unsustainable. The rise in long trolley waits is particularly worrying, as there is clear evidence they can lead to worse outcomes for patients.

Responding to the figures from NHS England, Chris Hopson, said:

“These figures for December reflect the enormous pressures on the health service as winter started to take hold. It is worrying that although more patients are being treated; growing numbers of people face delays. This is the first time that performance against the four hour target for major hospital A&Es has dipped below 80%. Delayed discharges are close to record levels. We have seen powerful coverage in the media this week of the difficulties and distress this causes to patients, their families and carers, because of delays in securing appropriate social care after hospital treatment. These types of delays have risen by more than 40% in the last year.

NHS staff have responded magnificently to increased winter pressures, but the situation has become unsustainable


“We should not lose sight of how NHS staff have managed to cope in the face of enormous pressure. A&E attendances increased by more than 4% compared with the previous December, calls to ambulance services rose by 13%, and the number of diagnostic tests carried out was up by 7.4%. The health service is doing more for more people than ever before. But despite its best efforts, it can not keep pace with the additional demands that are being placed on it. That is why we need an urgent review of how the NHS manages winter pressures so that improvements can be made for patients, as well as staff, next winter.”

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