NHS ‘on its knees’ as data shows services creak under pressure in England

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The NHS is “on its knees”, leading health experts have warned, as a series of data for England shows the service cracks under the pressure.

The King’s Fund health think tank said “chronic labor shortages” were exacerbating the pressure on staff overworked and exhausted by the pandemic, while numbers showed huge expectations for treatment and treatment. very long waits for ambulances to reach 999 calls.

Data, from NHS England, shows 5.8 million people were expected to start treatment in late September – the highest number since records began in August 2007.

The number of people who had to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at 300,566 in September, up from 292,138 the month before and more than double the number waiting a year earlier, in September 2020, which was 139 545.

Deborah Ward, Senior Analyst at the King’s Fund, said: “Today’s statistics show the worst performance since the current records began for ambulance calls, A&E and expectations for planned hospital care.

“In a normal year, any of them would sound the alarm; taken together before winter even began, they suggest a health and care system operating for such an extended period while dealing with Covid-19, it is now on its knees. “

All ambulance trusts in England are currently on high alert and under significant pressure.

They are missing call response targets, with the longest average response times since current monthly registrations started in August 2017.

The latest data from October shows the average response time for ambulances dealing with the most urgent Category 1 incidents – defined as life-threatening illnesses or injuries such as cardiac arrest – was nine minutes and 20 minutes. seconds, against a goal of seven minutes.

Ambulances in England also took an average of 53 minutes and 54 seconds last month to respond to category 2 calls, such as burns, epilepsy and stroke, up from 45 minutes and 30 seconds in September, and have missed the 18-minute goal.

Response times for urgent calls – such as late stages of labor, non-severe burns, and diabetes – averaged three hours, nine minutes, and 58 seconds.

This is an increase from two hours, 35 minutes and 45 seconds in September, and is again the longest average since the current records began.

NHS England argued that 999 services had their busiest month in October, with staff responding to a record 1,012,143 calls.

Ambulance personnel responded to more than 82,000 life-threatening calls, an increase of more than 20,000 from the previous October 2019 record (61,561), the statement said.

He also said major A&E handled more than 1.4 million people in October – the highest on record for the month and the third highest on all time.

Data showed that a record 7,059 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E between a decision to admit and actually being admitted – the highest for a calendar month since registrations began in August 2010 .

Some 121,000 people waited at least four hours after the admission decision – the highest monthly total on record.

Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director for the NHS, said: ‘With the most 999 calls ever answered in a single month, the busiest October on record for major A&E and recall rollouts in As part of the successful NHS vaccination program, there is no doubt the pressure on the health service remains incredibly high.

“But, despite strong demand, NHS staff are going above and beyond to see more patients and provide millions of additional tests, checks, treatments and operations.

“More and more people are coming for treatment and this is expected to increase, but it is still very important that people soon seek help from the NHS if they are not feeling well.”

The number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals is returning to pre-pandemic levels, the data showed.

Earlier, Matthew Taylor, CEO of the Confederation of the NHS, said a survey of more than 450 leaders from all sectors of the health service found that nine in ten said the situation to which they were currently facing was “unsustainable” and that patient care was compromised.

Tim Gardner, senior researcher at the Health Foundation, said of the new data: “With waiting lists at an all time high, millions of patients and staff are feeling the impact of a failing healthcare system. struggle to keep up with demand.

“The government has said that the NHS is under ‘lasting pressure’ but it would be extraordinary to look at what is happening in the NHS right now and pretend it is sustainable.

“There are several factors that are already impacting patient care – delays in cancer treatment and routine operations, record waits for ambulances and emergencies, high demand for GP appointments. and an overburdened workforce depleted by the pandemic – all of which are reflected in the current situation. The figures.

“The fact that we are facing such great pressures before reaching the peak of winter is concerning, especially as cases of seasonal viruses and increasing staff absences are likely to add pressure. additional.”

New NHS data shows nearly 370,000 patients in England had waited more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in September.

A total of 369,207 patients were awaiting one of 15 standard tests, including MRI, non-obstetric ultrasound, or gastroscopy.

The equivalent number pending for more than six weeks in September 2020 was 419,841, while before the pandemic in September 2019, there were 38,802.

NHS England figures also showed 231,421 urgent cancer referrals were made by general practitioners in England in September, up 15% from the 201,013 reported in September last year.

The equivalent figure for September 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 195,196.


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