The NHS has a crisis every winter, but this year’s is on a different scale. Before a wave of strikes puts patients and care at risk, statistics released by NHS England this morning show one health service is already on the brink.
Last month, the number of 12-hour waits at A&E departments in England topped 37,800, having hit almost 44,000 the previous month: a decline, but still a worrying number. Waiting lists for consultant-led treatment have increased by 74,000 cases and now stand at 7.2 million. Ambulance wait times are still much higher than they should be – they are now 48 minutes. All this before things get really difficult.
Here’s what this morning’s NHS monthly statistical release tells us:
1. Hospital waiting lists continue to grow
Hospital waiting lists in England currently stand at 7.2 million and are likely to get worse: they are already up almost 74,000 in a single month. Filtered modeling to The viewer in February suggests that they could reach nine million for the next elections. Of course, we don’t know how many of the 7.2 million are individual people. Someone might be on the waiting list for multiple cases. If the NHS has that figure, they should publish it.
2. The number of one-year waits has also increased
The number of those waiting more than a year for treatment is also skyrocketing: now more than 410,000 patients. These are levels that have not been seen since last March, during the third lockdown. The waiting list continues to grow: it is already some 276,000 longer than the worst-case NHS models expected.
3. The ambulance is waiting
Ambulance response times for Category 2 calls (emergencies including heart attacks and strokes) have improved slightly to 48 minutes, up from over an hour the previous month. The goal is 18 minutes. The most serious category 1 calls now have a duration of 9.4 minutes.
4. Thousands of patients wait more than 12 hours in the ER
Nearly 38,000 patients waited more than 12 hours to be admitted to emergency departments, better than last month’s record of 44,000 but still much higher than pre-pandemic levels. Remember that the goal is for 95 percent of them to show up on A&E within four hours. Last month they only achieved a 69 percent success rate. However, A&E doctors dealt with more assists (2,166,710) than any previous November on record.
5. Delayed discharges
More patients are entering hospitals than leaving: Less than half of fit patients were discharged on time last month. More than 13,000 patients spent more time in the hospital than necessary every day; due to this, the equivalent of around one in ten beds was occupied during the month.
6. Cancer targets were missed again
There are separate NHS targets for cancer diagnoses: 75 per cent of patients must have their cancer confirmed or cleared within 28 days. The actual figure is now 69 percent, a slight improvement on last month’s figures. This 28-day cancer diagnosis goal has been missed for the 16th consecutive month.
The consequences of a stammering NHS could not be greater. When the Office for Budget Responsibility qualified Rishi Sunak’s Autumn Statement, implied that its failures were hurting the economy. They expect the number of disability benefits cases to rise ‘by 1.1 million in 2026-27: ‘This review,’ they say, ‘echoes the rise in health-related labor market inactivity, suggesting that may share a common cause’. In a footnote, the OBR announced that it will investigate “the possibility of causal links between successive waves of covid infections, the prevalence of long-term covid and the implications of the growing NHS waiting list for the labor market and employees.” profits” before your next forecast.
Some four million Britons say poor health ‘very much’ limits their daily lives. Yesterday, analysis of the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that in the summer of last year 15,000 working-age people filed a new claim for disability benefits each month — an average number unchanged for years. But this year it doubled to 30,000 (tripled for teens). the SFI they went out of their way to say that their analysis does not consider whether NHS delays have contributed to this. But boy, does it seem likely.