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First monthly data issued on how well NHS is coping with key aspects of care

Urgent and emergency care, cancer treatment, and waiting times all feature

Caroline White

Friday, 14 August 2015

NHS England has issued its first set of monthly data covering key areas of urgent and emergency care, cancer treatment and waiting times.

The move follows a letter from Bruce Keogh, National Medical Director, to NHS England chief Simon Stevens in June, recommending that reporting arrangements be standardised “so that performance statistics for A&E, Referral to Treatment Times, cancer, diagnostics, ambulances, NHS111 and delayed transfers of care all be published on one day each month.”

Barbara Hakin, National Director of Commissioning Operations for NHS England, commented: “This information gives us a clearer and more comprehensive picture of the current operational performance of the NHS than has ever been presented before.”

The figures showed high performance levels across the country, despite growing demand for care she said.

“Across the board the data show increased pressures: ambulance journeys up 7.9% year-on-year, emergency admissions up 2.7%, and diagnostic tests up 5.9%, all supported by a resilient NHS with remarkable frontline staff,” she pointed out.

“It also underlines the need for redesigned services, as set out in the NHS’ Five Year Forward View,” she added.

In the wake of the independent cancer taskforce’s recently published report, she said that concerted action on cancer care was planned.

“In the last five years the number of cancer referrals has leapt by 645,000 or 71%, meaning GPs are increasingly spotting the warning signs early and referring people for tests. We continue to treat the vast majority of patients within a month, whether that’s surgery, radiotherapy or drugs,” she said.

“As these statistics and new performance standards demonstrate, throughout the NHS patients are getting better care than ever before, and they are getting it when they need it and where they need it.”

But the NHS Confederation was less optimistic, pointing out that the new figures reflected the pressures the health service faces, and the crucial need for a ‘whole system response.’

Policy director, Dr Johnny Marshall, commented: “The health and care system is dealing with increasing demand in an ongoing period of change and financial restraint that stretches back over the last five years. The subsequent strain on the NHS is written all over these statistics.”

He said members and staff across the whole service were working flat out to ensure that patients received world class care, whilst making improvements to keep up with changing demand.

“This is a task that will take at least five years to complete and we recognise that more needs to be done - in health, in social care and in public health and prevention,” he said.

Better joined up care would ultimately help to curb demand and cut length of hospital stay, but he cautioned: “The only way to achieve this is through solutions that embrace health and social care services across the whole system. Pressure felt in hospitals is often a consequence of pressures in community and social care services.”

He added that urgent care of older people was a case in point. “We are working with our members and health experts to identify the best ways to improve urgent care for older people. If we can get this right we can look to improve patients’ experiences and ease the pressure facing hospitals across the country,” he suggested.

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