NHS Experiences Worst Winter Crisis on Record Figures Show

Official figures have confirmed that the recent winter was the worst on record for the NHS.

In particular, there was a 100,000 patient rise in the number left waiting over 18 weeks for surgery.

This represented at 8.9% increase on the same period last year.

In total, 367,094 patients were waiting this long in February, the monthly figures show, compared with 263,589 a year earlier.

Thousands of operations were cancelled during the winter period following Accident and Emergency departments being besieged with demand.

And patients required to wait in excess of 12 months for surgery also rose to its highest level for nearly 5 years, with over 1,500 such cases recorded.

However, the NHS has already warned that these figures are set to inflate further still in the coming years.

The 18-week number is expected to reach 800,000 by the end of the decade, as the healthcare system prioritises dealing with cancer patients over non-emergency treatments.

Simon Stevens indicated that the trade off could lead to improvement in other areas, such as hitting the four-hour A&E target and better cancer care.

However, some authoritative organisations have questioned the validity of the new approach to treatment.

A Royal College of Surgeons spokeswoman stated that the decision “risks undoing much of the progress the NHS has made on reducing long waiting times over the last decade.”

NHS statistics note that almost 200,000 patients waited more than four hours in A&E this winter.

This represents an increase of approximately 500% in just four years.

Between December 2016 and February 2017, a total of 195,764 patients waited at least four hours to be admitted to hospital from A&E.

The four-hour figure is the NHS standard for this performance metric.

Bed-blocking levels also reached a record high this winter, with 577,195 days were lost through delayed transfers of care.

This was 20% more than over the winter period in 2015/16.

Meanwhile, delays for cancer patient also reached record levels, with just under 80% of patients seen within nine weeks of an urgent referral, significantly less than the 85% targets.

An NHS England spokesman defended the performance of the healthcare system, and suggested that the implementation of new initiatives will help to address the problems.

“February was the first month this year where A&E performance returned to similar levels to a year ago, and diagnostic waits were the lowest in three years. The NHS is now focused on delivering the practical improvements set out in the Next Steps on the Forward View plan published a fortnight ago.”


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