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Latest alarming A&E stats presage NHS chaos this winter

Summer 2019 was worst on NHS record – a serious warning sign that 'NHS is on collision course for worst ever winter'

Louise Prime

Friday, 11 October 2019

The NHS is on a collision course for chaos and its worst ever winter, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned after the latest official statistics revealed that it has just had its worst summer on record, and A&E waits in September were the worst outside of winter since 2010. NHS Providers agreed that there is a strong likelihood that these pressures will intensify across the health and care system this winter, meaning patients will wait longer for the treatment they need.

NHS England’s latest performance statistics* showed that:

  • There were 2.14m A&E attendances in September 2019, 6.9% more than in September 2018.
  • There were 529,903 emergency admissions in September 2019, 3.8% more than in September 2018.
  • The number of A&E patients seen in over four hours was 282,211 compared with 197,598 in September 2018, an increase of 42.8%.
  • There were 64,921 patients waiting more than four hours in A&E from decision to admit to admission (45.6% higher than September 2018). Of these, 455 patients waited more than 12 hours (195.5% higher than in September 2018).
  • The number of patients on the waiting list for planned treatment who were waiting under 18 weeks increased between August 2018 and August 2019 from 3.6m to 3.7m, and the number of patients waiting over 18 weeks soared from 530,000 to 662,000.
  • 199,048 people were seen following an urgent referral for suspected cancer in August 2019. There were 2,318,008 people seen in the 12 months to August 2019, an increase of 12.7% on the previous 12-month period.
  • 89.4% of people in August 2019 were seen by a specialist within two weeks of an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer, compared with 91.7% at the end of August 2018 – and against the operational standard of 93%.
  • There were 148,872 delayed transfer of care days in August 2019, compared with 146,866 in August 2018, an increase of 1.4%.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “The NHS has just experienced its worst ever summer – this is frankly alarming and should be taken as a serious warning sign of the chaos that is likely to unfold in the NHS this coming winter. With summer performance now as bad as recent winters, we have reached a point of year-round crisis and the government cannot continue to let this happen.

“September A&E waits were the worst performance record outside of winter since 2010 and trolley waits and referrals to treatment are worse than we have seen in the last decade.

“Patient care is suffering, NHS staff working tirelessly around the clock are suffering, and with Brexit on the horizon and early indicators of an extremely cold winter we are on crash-course for what is likely to be the worst winter ever.

“This is a serious plea – we need to see investment across the board including community and social care, and resources such as more beds, reaching the frontline now.”

NHS Providers said the figures show just how much pressure trusts are under, and agreed that there are worrying signs that pressures are likely to intensify this winter. Its director of policy and strategy Miriam Deakin warned: “Surges in demand in urgent and emergency care have a knock-on effect on the health and care system, in and outside of hospital settings. This month we saw more patients waiting longer than ever before for routine operations and for urgent suspected cancer referrals by GPs, and the waiting list for planned care is at its greatest size in over a decade.

“Despite trusts working incredibly hard to prepare and keep patients safe, there is a strong likelihood that these pressures will intensify across the health and care system this winter with patients waiting longer for the treatment they need.”


*NHS Performance Statistics. Figures prepared by NHS England, 10 October 2019.

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