Official data has revealed that hospitals were forced to cancel more life-saving operations during the last month than at any point since records began.
Almost double the number of urgent procedures such as heart surgery were delayed in November than during the same month the year before.
MPs have suggested that the figures indicate that some hospitals within the NHS system are close to breaking point.
And this is obviously occurring before many parts of the country have been hit by the most severe winter weather.
NHS England records show 446 urgent operations were cancelled in November; a rise of 24% on the previous month and an 84% inflation compared to November 2015.
“Waiting for an operation is stressful enough even when everything goes smoothly, to be told that your operation has been delayed heaps even more strain on patients,” commented Norman Lamb in the Commons; a former health minister in the coalition government.
The health service regulator has requested hospitals to postpone non-urgent operations in the hope of easing the bed-blocking crisis; another indication of systemic problems within the NHS system.
Official figures from November also indicated dozens of hospitals were so heavily occupied that not a solitary paediatric intensive care bed was free.
The overall occupancy rate of paediatric critical was 88.4% in November; compared with 76.4% the previous month and 88.1% in November last year.
Speaking in the House of Commons, the aforementioned lamb suggested that increasing funding for the NHS is absolutely essential, indicating his belief that the current situation is unsustainable.
The Liberal Democrat MP stated that the new data represented a “damning indictment” of the Government’s “failure to properly fund the NHS”.
“Now patients are paying the price for the Government’s short-sightedness, with record levels of cancelled operations and hospitals being stretched to breaking point,” Lamb asserted.
But a spokesman for NHS England stated that anyone who needed to be in hospital would ultimately be dealt with appropriately.
“As in previous years we have well-rehearsed plans in place this winter to maximise bed availability and minimise the potential for cancelled operations, but we do recognise we are going into this winter facing the highest demand ever,” the spokesman commented.
And a government spokesman defended the level of NHS funding.
“The NHS is busier than ever but hospitals are coping well with increased winter demand – supported by an additional £400 million to manage seasonal pressures. We are committed to delivering a safer seven day NHS which is why we have invested £10 billion to fund the NHS’s own plan to transform services in the future”.