Hospital Dr News

NHS misses key targets by the largest margin on record, new analysis shows

An analysis of NHS figures suggests that the pressure on the service hit new highs last winter, and key targets were missed by the largest margin on record.

The BMA report, NHS Pressures – Winter 2018/19; A Hidden Crisis, uses NHS England figures to examine the performance of the NHS during recent winters and over the long term.

A record 6.2 million patients visited major emergency care departments this winter.

Almost one in four patients were left waiting more than four hours to be seen at major emergency care units and 214,000 were left on trolleys waiting more than four hours to be seen after being admitted. This is the second worst performance quarter on record.

Overall, 85.1% of patients were seen within the four-hour target, only 0.1% better than the worst figures on record last winter.

When it comes to hospital care, the total number of patients waiting for operations and further care rose to a record 4.3 million in February 2019 – with the average wait for an operation now at close to seven weeks.

Between 3 December 2018 and 3 March 2019, 93% of beds in the NHS were occupied, only marginally down from last year.

On cancer services, almost a quarter of patients had to wait more than two months for their first treatment after an urgent referral by a GP, with only 76.2% being seen within the 62 days; well below the 85% target.

This is the worst performance on record. Overall, 6,240 people were waiting beyond the target, a 39% rise on last year.

The number of people waiting to see a cancer specialist for more than 21 days rose to a historic high of 8,820, up from 5,099 last winter, an increase of 73%.

BMA council chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “Behind these statistics, which show the NHS plunged deeper into crisis this winter, are stories of real lives in distress. Forcing a patient to wait two months for their first cancer treatment is shameful for a leading nation and as a doctor, I can imagine only too well the distress this will cause to them and their families.

“The Government needs to realise that the crisis in the NHS is not going away as our health service struggles in an underfunded and understaffed environment against a backdrop of rising patient demand.”

Nick Ville, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, commented: “Part of the solution will undoubtedly lie in implementing the NHS’s Long Term Plan, directing more investment towards primary, community and social care services and working at pace to join up local health and care services to provide new ways of care.

“But we will still need capital investment for hospitals in the comprehensive spending review, to improve infrastructure to better manage increasing demand and we will need to address the workforce challenges facing the NHS, which come to the fore at winter.”

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