NHS running red hot as we approach busy winter period

Nick Ville

Responding to the latest performance statistics published by NHS England, Nick Ville, director of membership and policy at the NHS Confederation, said: “These figures reinforce a difficult truth – front-line health services are buckling under the strain of relentless demand and our staff are coming under unremitting pressure. We must do all we can to alleviate this, but the immediate prospects are not looking good as we head into winter.

“This summer has piled on further pressure, rather than providing an opportunity for local services to make inroads into reducing waiting times. With A&E attendances on the rise again, up 6.4 per cent year-on-year, and a waiting list of 4.4 million, we are heading into the traditionally busier winter months in worse shape than we would have liked.  

“Sadly, this is the new normal. We find ourselves in a position where a 126.9 per cent increase in patients waiting more than 12 hours is in fact an improvement month-on-month: the figure for July was 192.6 per cent. Coupled with increases in the number of patients waiting more than four hours, and missed targets for ambulances and cancer treatment, we are in a dire position. 

“We are also just six weeks from the UK’s exit from the EU and are facing the very real prospect of leaving without a deal. A no-deal exit presents a serious and immediate risk to supplies of medicines, including the flu vaccine, and medical devices. However, we believe the public should be reassured that very extensive preparations have been made for a no-deal outcome. 

“After a decade of austerity and rapidly rising demand, it was always going to take a long time to recover performance against key waiting time targets. We now have the right vision in place for the future of the NHS and need to support local leaders and their staff to deliver the Long Term Plan. It will take time to turn this situation around, but we are already seeing many examples of innovative practice that are delivering real improvements to patients.”

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