Figures show great effort from NHS staff, but faster Government action needed for delayed discharges

Matthew Taylor responds to this month's NHS Performance statistics.

13 October 2022

Today’s monthly NHS performance statistics show:

• Record number of cancer checks – over 255,000 people were checked following an urgent referral in August 2022, which is the highest number since records began, with over 2 million tests and checks being carries out in August for other medical reasons that month

• The elective waiting list is now over 7m people for the first time (7,003,256) while the NHS continues to make solid progress on patients who have been waiting the longest

• Demand for emergency care continue to be very high – 56.9% of A&E attendances were seen within 4 hours, compared to 76.1% for the same month in 2019, and ‘category 1’ ambulance call outs in September were a fifth higher than before the pandemic  

On average, only 2 in 5 patients are able to be discharged from hospital when they were medically fit in September, including due to problems with social care provision and access - an average of 13,300 beds a day occupied by patients who no longer need to be there.

Commenting on the latest figures, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation said:

“Pressures on the NHS are sky high, yet these figures show that health leaders and their teams are putting in the hard work to drive down waiting times and ensure that patients get the urgent checks and tests they need.

“However, with waiting lists over 7 million for the first time and demand intensifying across emergency care, the NHS is still experiencing the aftershock of the pandemic and over 10,000 people in hospital have coronavirus. The NHS will continue to work at full pelt but there is no easy fix to filling its 132,000 vacancies or addressing the horrifying real-terms funding cut services continue to face. If the government truly cares about the NHS, it must set out investment for a fully funded workforce plan and guarantee that it will protect the NHS’s capital budgets to ensure that patients are supported, both ahead of winter and in the longer term.

“While health leaders supported the government’s promise of a £500m fund to support hospitals to discharge patients safely and ensure they receive the support they need in the community, they are exasperated that not a penny of this has reached their services yet and they still don’t know when it will be released. Only 2 in 5 patients are currently able to be discharged from hospital on time, which leads to tens of thousands of beds occupied by people who should not be there and other people are then having to wait longer for their care.

“The government must act now by clarifying its position and properly invest in the NHS and social care in a timely manner to avoid this crisis from spiralling beyond control.”