No end in sight to NHS winter pressures

Rory Deighton responds to the NHS England's latest urgent and emergency care situation report

15 February 2024

  • There were an average of 2,390 patients in hospital with flu each day last week, down slightly from 2,478 the previous week which was the highest level so far this winter;
  • The proportion of ambulance handover delays of more than 30 minutes was 32.5% last week, up from 30.7% the previous week, and much higher than the 20% reported during the same week last year;
  • Some 13.3% of ambulance handover delays were longer than an hour, up from 12.1% the previous week;
  • Some 13,776 beds on average each day last week were filled with patients no longer meeting the criteria to reside in hospital, up slightly from 13,662 the previous week; and
  • An average of 48,482 NHS staff were off sick last week, down 2.3% from 49,620 the previous week.

Responding to the NHS England's latest urgent and emergency care situation report, Rory Deighton, director of the NHS Confederation’s Acute Network, said:

“There is no end in sight to the pressures the NHS is facing, despite some welcome falls in flu and staff absence levels. Our members report their A&Es are incredibly busy, with critical incidents being declared as hard-pressed staff have to use surge beds or corridor care to treat patients.

“Long waits in A&E and hospital corridors leave staff frustrated that they cannot provide the care they would like. Despite extensive planning by national, system and local leaders to boost capacity, this winter has been one of the toughest the health service has ever faced with cold snaps and industrial action piling on the pressure.

“There are still far too many patients in hospital who are well enough to leave, bed occupancy levels are too high, and ambulances are still facing delays handing patients over at A&E. Our members are concerned that funding problems in social care are causing a shortage of the vital care packages needed to help the NHS free up beds and get the system flowing again.

“While health leaders and their teams will pull out all the stops to fill rotas ahead of further junior doctor strikes, the upshot will be more patients having their operations or appointments cancelled and efforts to tackle the backlogs set back. It is not too late to restart negotiations and stop the strikes before more patients have their vital care delayed."