Hospital Dr News

House of Commons data briefing reveals true extent of winter pressures in 2017/2018

The NHS winter pressures in England in 2017/18 were the most intense on record, according to a House of Commons Library briefing.

The briefing summarises data on demand, pressure and performance for the NHS in England this winter, and shows hospital A&E attendances increased by 1.6% compared with last winter.

22.9% of patients spent longer than 4 hours in A&E, compared with 20.7% last winter and 6.2% in 2010/11.

Furthermore, general and acute bed occupancy was 94.4%, and was over 90% for all but four days this winter. On average, 20 hospital trusts had occupancy over 99% each day.

Ideally, hospitals will run at around 85% occupancy rates.

On average there were 1,100 fewer beds available each day than last winter. But there were also 1,500 fewer beds each day lost to delayed discharges than last winter.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “Doctors working on the frontline have consistently told us that this winter was worse than any they had experienced before, and these figures confirm the extent of the pressures faced by both NHS staff and patients during the toughest months of the year.”

Ambulance performance is also highlighted in the briefing. 13,445 ambulances arrived at England’s hospitals each day. One in eight ambulance handovers were delayed by more than 30 minutes over the winter, peaking at one in four on 2nd January.

3% of handovers were delayed by more than an hour over the winter, with a peak of 9% on 2nd January.

Nuffield Trust Director of Research John Appleby said: “Behind these striking figures are thousands of individual stories of patients in pain and distress, and NHS staff members working in stressful and pressured conditions.

“We know that the NHS has been pulling out all the stops to keep the health service on the straight and narrow this winter. But with staff shortages widespread and funding tight, it has been doing this with the odds stacked against it.”

Commentators make the point that NHS pressures are no longer confined to winter.

Nagpaul said: “Though the traditional winter period may now be over, we must be clear: this is no longer just a seasonal problem – it has become a year-round crisis.

“Our own research released earlier this week showed the health service should expect to see scenes this summer similar to those of recent winters.”

In 2016/17, further information on which NHS trusts have declared OPEL pressure alerts each day was published.

This was billed as a way to streamline reporting and “provide a common language” of pressure. However, this data has not being released to the public in 2017/18, the briefing says.

Read the full report.

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