Winter pressures in the NHS continue ahead of junior doctor walkouts

Rory Deighton responds to the latest winter sitrep data.

22 February 2024

  • There were an average of 2,208 patients in hospital with flu each day last week. Flu numbers are down 7.6% from 2,390 the previous week which was the highest point so far this winter. This is higher than the 638 during the same week last year.
  • An average of 46,834 NHS staff were off sick last week, down 3.4% from 48,482 the previous week and was 48,269 during the same week last year.  
  • NHS staff continue to contend with high demand for urgent and emergency care, with 89,377 ambulance handovers to hospitals last week, up 12% from 79,752 in the same week last year. The proportion of ambulance handover delays of more than 30 minutes was 29.9% last week, down from 32.5% the previous week, and much higher than the 25% reported during the same week last year.  
  • Some 13,624 beds each day were filled with patients no longer meeting the criteria to reside in hospital on average last week, down 1.1% from 13,776 the previous week. At the same time last year this was 13,694.
  • 103,597 beds were available on an average day last week, up by around 2.5% year-on-year (101,067), with bed occupancy at 94% compared to 94.6% for the previous week and 94.1% the same time last year.

Responding to the to the latest winter sitrep data Rory Deighton, director of the NHS Confederation’s Acute Network, said:

“Another week where health leaders and their staff are grappling with continued high demand of seasonal illnesses, ambulance handover delays, delayed discharges, as well as high rates of hospital bed occupancy.

“However, it is not just any other week. This all comes as we face another round of intense strike action from junior doctors. While the ongoing winter pressures still run hot the last thing NHS leaders wanted was for further industrial action, as patients are the ones being left to pick up the pieces of this ongoing dispute.

“Health leaders and their teams have worked hard to fill rotas ahead of further junior doctor strikes. But the impact on frontline services will be significant and further jeopardise efforts to recover the elective backlog. The NHS is being left in a stagnated position where more than a million appointments and operations have already been cancelled due to a year of walkouts, with the number set to increase after the next round of action.

“For the sake of health leaders, their teams but most importantly the patients who depend on the health service, the government and the BMA must get back around the table. Only by being in the same room, talking and negotiating can we expect to resolve this dispute.”