Hospital Dr News

NHS figures reveal an “unsustainable system” with rising demand and missed targets

Rising demand has made the health system “unsustainable” with extra funding and a new model of care needed.

These are the conclusions of health experts following the latest performance figures by NHS Improvement.

They show that for the first period of 2018/2019, 6.23 million patients attended A&E – a 3.7% rise on the same period last year.

A&E performance declined to 89.9% of patients being seen within four hours compared with 90.3% for the same period last year.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “We cannot go on like this. This is the story of an unsustainable system.

“The NHS in England is seeing more patients than ever within four hours at A&E, but it is not still meeting the 95% target, nor indeed many other targets. One in five beds is occupied by a patient who has been in hospital for more than three weeks.

“It is now clear we have to transform the model of care, to help patients stay in their own homes and communities with hospital becoming the last not the first resort.”

The ongoing workforce crisis is contributing to the problem. There are 108,000 unfilled vacancies among NHS providers – including 11,000 medical roles.

Dr Rob Harwood, BMA consultants committee chair, said: “These worrying figures confirm consistent warnings from frontline doctors about the deepening workforce crisis and the impact this has on their ability to guarantee safe, high-quality patient care.

“As doctors and other healthcare workers are forced to spread themselves more thinly, the cost to patient care is clear. However, with hospitals relying more heavily on temporary workers, the financial implications are also huge. At a time when an under-resourced NHS is operating at capacity, millions are spent plugging rota gaps – and this cannot be allowed to become a long-term solution.

“The government must urgently address the recruitment crisis across medicine and the wider NHS if the health service is to keep up with rising demand.”

Financially the NHS is up against it despite the government’s promise of a long-term funding deal from next year.

NHS providers finished 2017/18 with a deficit of £966 million, the figures claim.

Nuffield Trust Senior Policy Analyst Sally Gainsbury said: “For the first time, the brave and honest step has also been taken to publish the underlying deficit.

“As we have calculated and warned for several years, the real level of annual overspending is around £4bn, many times the reported headline deficit measure. That means services were lacking the equivalent of 18 days’ worth of funding last year, running instead on bailouts, one off savings, and selling off land.”

Read the figures.

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