Winter outlook for NHS worst for a decade, says King’s Fund

16 Nov 16

The NHS is heading into winter with its finances and performance in the worst shape they have been for a decade, the King’s Fund has warned.

In its latest quarterly monitoring report, published today, the health think-tank said the service is now treating more patients than at any time in its history. The report, which covers the July-September quarter, shows that the number of GP referrals is up 3% on last year, while the number of accident and emergency admissions is up 4%.

As a consequence, the NHS is struggling to maintain care standards, the King’s Fund said. Almost one in ten patients (94%) visiting A&E are waiting for more than four hours, while the same proportion are waiting longer than 18 weeks to begin hospital treatment.

The July-September quarter also saw a record high of 568,774 bed days lost as a result of delays in discharging patients. This was a 29% increase on the same quarter last year.

Commenting on the findings, King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham said: “The NHS needs to redouble efforts to manage demand and this will require investment in out-of-hospital services via the sustainability and transformation plans now being developed across England.

“The most pressing priority for next week's Autumn Statement is to provide more funding for social care, following years of budget cuts. Not only would this benefit some of the most vulnerable people in society, but it would also help relieve pressure on the NHS.”

The think-tank noted that 2016/17 was supposed the be the year the NHS stabilises its finances, but this is proving a challenge with a third of trusts forecasting that they will miss their ‘control total’ targets, up 13% on the last quarter.

Analysis of activity in general practice also highlighted an almost 10% increase in patient contacts, including telephone consultations, over the last two years.

  • Vivienne Russell

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

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