The NHS failed to hit key targets on A&E and cancer waiting times in February despite winter pressures starting to ease.
Monthly performance statistics from NHS England for February show that 87.6% of patients were admitted, transferred or discharged from A&E within four hours of arrival.
The standard of 95% of patients spending 4 hours or less in A&E was last achieved in July 2015.
The latest report concludes that the long-term trend in the NHS is one of greater volumes of both urgent and emergency care and elective activity, with ambulance calls receiving a face-to-face response up 6.4%, A&E attendances up 3.1%, emergency admissions up 2.9%, diagnostic tests up 4.7% and consultant-led treatment up 4.4%.
There were 184,855 delayed days for discharging patients in February 2017, compared to 158,131 in February 2016.
There were 6,602 delayed days per calendar day in February 2017, compared to 5,453 delayed days per calendar day in February 2016.
Richard Murray, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, said: ‘These performance statistics for February offer the latest evidence of NHS performance continuing to struggle. Although February saw some improvements as winter pressures began to ease, the NHS is still failing to meet key targets such as A&E and cancer waiting times.
“NHS England’s recent delivery plan promises a renewed focus on addressing these delays in A&E and cancer treatment, but getting back on track will be a momentous challenge. Hospitals are clearly under severe pressure and improving key services within the current budget is a highly ambitious goal.”
Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, commented: “Over the past few months we have seen unsustainable bed occupancy levels, increasingly delayed transfers of care, and unacceptable waits for A&E treatment. Targets are consistently not being met across the health system, and current trends suggest that performance will continue to deteriorate rather than improve.
“The weather this winter was relatively mild and we were lucky that there were no widespread outbreaks of illnesses such flu or the norovirus. Had this been otherwise, the NHS would not have coped and patient safety would have been put at risk.
“The record levels of delayed transfers of care show we can’t address problems in A&E without looking at the system as a whole. We can only tackle the pressure on A&E if every part of the system – from our GP surgeries, to hospitals, to community care – is fully supported and working well.”