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Rising demand and understaffing puts NHS waiting times up again

Cancer referral waits worst ever

NHS

The NHS in England is increasingly struggling to cope with ever-rising demand for services, with worsening staffing shortages adding to the problems. 

The release of the latest monthly NHS performance statistics yesterday showed an increased demand on the services across the board, with waiting times for A&E, consultant-led care, diagnostic tests and cancer referrals all rising.

The number of A&E and emergency care patients waiting more than four hours for treatment last month was 261,438 compared to 186,119 in May 2018, an increase of more than 50%.

There are also record numbers of people on hospital waiting lists, and 4.4 million people waiting for consultant-led care. The proportion of patients who began treatment or had diagnostic tests carried out within NHS time limits were also at their worst level for more than a decade.

Meanwhile, the proportion of people seen within two weeks following an urgent cancer referral are at the lowest level since records began.

Nick Ville, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said: “Given the extreme pressure on front-line services, it is unsurprising that the number of people waiting for more than four hours in A&E has increased by more than 50% compared to May last year.”

In May 2019, A&E attendances rose by 2.6% compared to May 2018, with annual admissions up by 5.6% compared to the last 12-month period. As these figures continue to grow, the NHS is becoming increasingly understaffed, with 100,000 staff vacancies adding to the pressure the service faces.

siva

Siva Anandaciva

Commenting on the data, Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at The King’s Fund, said: “These figures show NHS performance is heading in the wrong direction. The new five-year funding deal for the NHS came with the explicit expectation that the NHS would get back on the path to delivering its core performance standards."

He added that the government had to “deliver on its promises” to address staffing shortages and provide investment and reform for social care and preventative services.

Launched earlier this month, The Interim People Plan is the initiative aimed at mending these staffing issues, in line with the Long Term Plan published in January. Highlighted within the Interim People Plan is a renewed focus on recruitment, improvement of workplace standards and increased attention on 21st century care.

However, most of these measures will take years to take effect, while the current shortfall of around 40,000 nurses needs to be addressed urgently. The King’s Fund says this can only be addressed by ethically recruiting 5,000 nurses a year from countries with an over-supply of healthcare workers.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

14th June 2019

From: Healthcare

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