The NHS’s performance is holding up despite warnings about the scale of the financial challenges it is facing.
The latest quarterly monitoring report from The King’s Fund shows that NHS performance against key indicators for waiting times and infection rates remains on track, although national statistics mask significant variation in performance between hospitals.
The report focused on delays in transferring patients out of hospital. It finds that the number of patients experiencing delayed transfers of care has fallen to its lowest level since this data has been collected, with the number of days delayed also having fallen in December. This is to be expected as the data follows a strong seasonal pattern - the long-term trend on both measures remains stable.
These findings suggest that additional funding provided by the government to promote joint working between health and social care services has had a positive impact, the report stated. However, in a statement the Kings Fund added: “There is no room for complacency, with 10 out of 23 NHS finance directors questioned for the report indicating that delayed discharges are increasing in their local health economy, suggesting some local variation.”
Despite the pressures created by the need to find £20 billion in productivity improvements by 2015, national statistics show that performance on waiting times and infection rates also remains good, despite problems in some hospitals.
The proportion of patients waiting more than four hours in A&E fell for the third successive quarter but otherwise remains higher than at any time since the third quarter of 2004/5.
And the number of C difficile cases fell to a new low, although the number of MRSA infections increased for the first time in a number of months.
Professor John Appleby Chief Economist at The King’s Fund said: “The NHS continues to perform well, despite significant financial pressures. However, less than a year into a financial squeeze that will last for several years, the pressures already emerging in some trusts highlight the scale of the challenge ahead. Our analysis suggests that new funding to promote joint working between health and social care has, for the time being at least, ensured that delayed discharges remain stable.”