A&E performance hits record low

10 Mar 16

The performance of NHS accident and emergency departments in England fell to a new low in January this year, according to official figures published today.

There were 1.9 million A&E attendances in the first month of the year, 10.1% more than in January 2015.

Of these attendees, 88.7% were either admitted, transferred or discharged with four hours of arrive, below the 95% standard. NHS England said this was “lowest performance since monthly data became available in August 2010”.

At the King’s Fund think-tank, chief economist John Appleby commented that, with more than one in ten A&E patients now waiting for more than four hours, performance was at its worst level for more than a decade.

“The number of patients waiting in emergency departments to be admitted to hospital has spiked to almost 52,000, the worst since ‘trolley waits’ started being recorded, and delays in discharging patients are at their highest level since February 2009,” he said.

“‘These are symptomatic of the perfect storm through which NHS trusts are trying to steer – with pressures on services across the board. Most trusts are operating with very high bed occupancy which makes it difficult to respond to unexpected fluctuations in admissions. This is compounded by delays in discharging patients, which prevents beds being freed up for new patients. Today’s figures suggest it will be a long winter for the NHS.”

Elsewhere, the monthly figures revealed there were 484,568 admissions in January 2016, 4.6% up on the previous year.

There were 159,089 delayed days (days where patients due for transfers were stuck), up from the 150,392 in recorded in January 2015. “This was the second highest number of total delayed days reported in a monthly data was first collected in August 2010,” NHS England.

Responding to the figures, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services highlighted that nearly a third of these (32.3%) were due to pressures in the adult social care system.

ADASS president Ray James said the figures illustrated why chancellor George Osborne needed to bring forward the proposed £700m funding increase for social care in next week’s Budget.

“Unless the Government addresses the chronic underfunding of adult social care – and quickly - many services will be at significant risk over the next couple of years, with worrying consequences not only for the NHS, but most of all for older and disabled people, their families and carers,” he stated.

“While by no means a complete solution, bringing forward the new funding currently planned for the end of this parliament would go some way to alleviating this immediate pressure.”

On elective care, NHS England said standards were met for six of the eight cancer standards, but not for referral to consultant-led treatment within 18 weeks, diagnostic tests, waiting times for cancer patients (85% should begin treatment within 62 days of referral) and those with breast symptoms (93% should be seen by a consultant within 14 days).

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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