The reality of the NHS crisis – A&E reports the ‘worst month on record’
NHS England A&E waiting figures have been released to the public, showing the full extent of the NHS winter crisis. The figures, released on Thursday, show some of the longest waiting times since records began, demonstrating that the winter crisis has put an unmanageable strain on A&E departments.
A summary of the figures is included below:
85.1% of patients were seen within 4 hours in all A&E departments this month, compared to 88.9% in November 2017 and 86.2% in December 2016. The proportion of patients seen within 4 hours in all A&E departments in January 2017 was 85.1%, the lowest performance figure since this collection began. This is below the 95% standard, which was last achieved in July 2015.
With waiting times the worst since records began in 2010, Theresa May’s ‘better prepared than ever’ rhetoric has been put back in the spotlight. Yesterday Jeremy Corbyn’s Prime Minister’s Questions round was front-loaded with accusations of under-funding, staffing shortages and negligence by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Speaking on Wednesday, Corbyn said the Health Secretary’s insistence that he wouldn’t “abandon the ship” served as an admission that “under his captaincy, the ship is indeed sinking.”
Figures from Public Health England show that there were 24 flu-related deaths in the last week of 2017, taking the total number of flu-related deaths to 48 so far this winter. Speaking to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on Thursday, after the record low A&E performance figures had been released, Theresa May said that the number of patients getting the Flu was partly to blame for the high waiting times. The Prime Minister avoided suggestions that the NHS needed more funding.
Hospital chiefs also warned on Thursday that the NHS winter crisis was a “watershed moment”, claiming that the service can no longer meet its standards of care at the current level of government funding. In a letter to health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt, then body urged him to ditch the Conservatives’ policy of small budget increases brought in as part of the coalition government’s austerity measures in 2010.
This message was reinforced by NHS chief executive, Chris Hopson, who, speaking in an interview for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said that the NHS had no way of dealing with the demand it is currently facing without a “long-term funding settlement”. Speaking on Thursday, Hopson said: “For the first time ever in NHS history, last year, all of the key targets were missed.”