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NHS performance is worsening

18-week target missed for first time in December and performance on other targets declined

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The NHS is consistently failing to hit key targets and its performance is worsening, official statistics show.

The latest statistics for December show a worsening across several areas, including patient referrals and A&E waiting times.

December was the first time that the NHS missed one target – which is for people to be treated within 18 weeks of GP referral – since it was introduced in April 2012. In December, 91.8% of people were treated within 18 weeks against the 92% target.

In December, 91% of patients were admitted, transferred or discharged from A&E within four hours of arrival, which is the second lowest performance on record. The lowest performance was in December 2014 when trusts achieved 89.9%. The target is 95%.

Performance on delayed transfers of care was also the second lowest on record. There were 154,060 days of delays in discharging patients in December.

Other targets being consistently missed and that were also missed in December included ambulance targets. In December 72.6% of the most serious Red 1 calls – where patients are not breathing or do not have a pulse – were responded to within eight minutes; and 67.2% of Red 2 calls –such as strokes or fits. The target for both is 75%.

When it comes to diagnostic tests such as endoscopy, more than 2% of patients had been waiting six weeks or longer from referral in December. The target is 1% and it has not been met since November 2013.

Phil McCarvill, Deputy Director of Policy, NHS Confederation, said the figures reflected the increasing pressure on all parts of the health service.

“They underscore the importance of efforts across the NHS, social care and in the community to transform services and help people get care earlier - including care outside of hospitals when appropriate,” he said.

"Hospitals don’t work in isolation and cannot solve issues like cuts to social care, which nevertheless lead to increased demand for hospital beds. Regulators should begin to focus on entire local systems rather than individual organisations, which would help hospitals to address waiting times, ensure patients are able to be seen as quickly as possible and are able to go home when they are ready.”

However, the data show that the NHS is meeting seven out of eight cancer targets, and that one of these – for 85% of patients to receive their first definitive treatment for cancer within 62 days of being urgently referred – was met in December for the first time since April 2014, with 85.1% of patients getting treated.

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