Hospital Dr News

NHS targets continue to be missed as patient demand grows, figures reveal

Delays in discharging patients from hospital have risen 23% since June last year, NHS England figures reveal.

Every day more than 6,000 patients well enough to leave hospital are unable to do so because there is nowhere suitable for them to be discharged to.

The NHS also missed waiting-time targets for planned operations, accident and emergency units and ambulance call-outs.

90.5% of A&E patients were seen within four hours in June, up from 90.2% in May but still well below the 95% target.

Just over 69% of ambulances reached the most serious callouts within eight minutes, again below the 75% target.

And 91.5% patients waited less than 18 weeks for an operation, only just missing the 92% target.

Responding to the NHS England figures, which also suggest that major hospitals in England are failing to see almost one in seven patients within four hours, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “These figures are the latest in a spate of reports that show our health service is reaching a crisis point from a combination of increasing demand and inadequate resources. Huge efforts locally by doctors and other team members are important but are hampered because the government does not match the rising demand with sufficient investment.

“We can’t address problems in A&E without looking at the system as a whole. Problems at the hospital front door are linked to delays at the back door. This is because a shortage of social care beds creates ‘exit block’ in hospitals, meaning patients who no longer need to be in hospital can’t be discharged because there is simply nowhere for them to go. This, together with a shortage of beds and a shortage of doctors, leads to delays in admissions and patients being forced to wait on trolleys or admitted to an inappropriate ward.”

Hospitals in England handled more than 1.9 million A&E attendances in June, a 2.1% increase on the same month last year, and more than 480,000 emergency admissions, a 4.7% rise.

Porter added: “We can only get to grips with pressure on A&Es if every part of the system – from our GP surgeries, to hospitals, to community care – is fully supported and working well, and this includes addressing the shortage of A&E staff.

“We urgently need a long term strategy for the NHS that will help ease the fundamental workload and funding challenges that are overwhelming our health service.”

A waiting time target for mental health, introduced in April, requires that most people experiencing their first psychotic episode are treated with a NICE recommended package of care within two weeks of referral.

And the latest figures show that just over 73% started treatment within two weeks in June.

Stephen Dalton, Chief Executive, NHS Confederation, said: “These figures once again illustrate the strain the NHS is under to maintain timely access to high standards of care in the face of huge financial pressures.

“Unless we break the cycle, performance results will continue to follow this downward trend.

“The recent and important relaxation of some targets, and of the penalties for missing them, will give many hospitals much-needed opportunity.

“We now need the Government to incentivise greater coordination between local authorities and the NHS and to invest more in out-of-hospital health and care.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “It’s important patients who are well enough to leave hospital can do so at the earliest opportunity, and in some parts of the country the system is working well.

“These figures underline the importance of joined-up care within the NHS and the dependence of hospitals on well-functioning social care services – particularly for older people living at home.”

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