Responding to NHS England’s first weekly winter situation report for Urgent and Emergency Care for 2022/23, Matthew Taylor chief executive of the NHS Confederation said:
“Health service leaders have been warning for weeks that we are now facing one of the worst winters for decades. Sadly this first tranche of winter data shows the NHS has not been crying wolf.
“These figures really hammer home just how stretched services already are as we head into a perfect winter storm. Significantly higher numbers of people are in hospital because of flu compared to this time last year coupled with the fact that Covid-19 has not gone away. Despite this, NHS leaders and their staff are going all out to provide services to patients and are committed to continuing to do all they can to drive down the backlog of people waiting for elective treatment.
“However, with 19 in 20 acute and general beds in hospitals around the country already occupied there is very little wriggle room available to admit patients just as those needing them climbs even higher. This is compounded by the fact that more than 13,000 people were medically fit and ready to leave hospital last week but were unable to be discharged because of a lack of care available to them in a community setting.
“Meanwhile, and very concerningly, 360,000 staff were off sick in the past seven days compounding the already severe staffing shortages. This has left NHS leaders juggling huge gaps in rotas and still dogged by over 130,000 unfilled posts.
“What these statistics don’t show us, is the story behind the scenes in primary and community care with many thousands more people seeking help and with demand for general practice appointments also at record levels.
“NHS staff are already exhausted and have had very little respite for several years now so the government’s promise of an imminent, and we hope comprehensive, workforce plan can’t come soon enough.”