Hospital Dr News

NHS performance figures decline as flu and winter pressures bite

Hospital corridors have become the new wards with the NHS recording its worst performance against the four-hour A&E waiting target last month.

That’s the conclusion of leading commentators, who suggest NHS England’s latest performance figures confirm the damage that underfunding is wreaking on healthcare services.

A&E units managed to treat and then admit, transfer or discharge just 77.1% of arrivals within the politically important four-hour target in January. That compared with 77.3% in December, which was also a new record low at that time.

81,003 patients waited over four hours from the decision to admit to admission in January, of whom 1,043 waited longer than 12 hours.

The equivalent figures for last January (previously the highest on record) were 79,551 and 989 respectively – a rise that comes despite all the much politically heralded winter planning.

Nuffield Trust Chief Economist John Appleby commented: “Today’s figures provide hard evidence on just how bad a winter the NHS is having. A year ago we warned that corridors had become the new emergency wards.

“It is deeply concerning that 12 months on the position has worsened, with many harrowing reports of patients being treated in busy corridors by stressed and overworked staff.”

The latest set of performance data published by NHS England also shows that 12% of patients had been waiting more than 18 weeks for planned treatment in December 2017, the highest proportion since 2009.

Dr Nick Scriven, the president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “The last six weeks have seen the acute services of the NHS under a sustained period of stress due to ‘normal’ winter pressures along with a surge in influenza. Neither of these were unpredictable, but both have combined to cause the issues that have been widely reported across the country.

“Last year we coined the phrase ‘eternal winter’, but the last month-and-a-half has shown an even steeper decline in performance as demonstrated by all the data available, particularly around ambulance delays, the four-hour emergency target and bed occupancy both in acute beds and critical care.”

The data also reveals that:

* 138,463 patients have waited at least 30 minutes in the back of an ambulance or a hospital corridor before being handed over to A&E staff this winter

* 31,306 of those patients endured a wait of at least an hour.

* Bed occupancy levels in hospitals are running at 95%, far above the 85% limit that doctors and health experts say should be the maximum

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