A record 7 million people were awaiting hospital treatment in England at the end of August, according to the latest NHS monthly performance figures released on Thursday.
the the total rose from 6.8mn a month earlier and included 2.75 million patients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment and 387,000 waiting more than a year.
Latest data from accident and emergency departments showed that only 57 per cent of patients were seen within four hours in September, a sharp drop from 76 per cent for the same month in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic. The deterioration came despite a 2 percent drop in the number of A&E attendees last month compared to the same month in 2019.
Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, called on the government to deal with the staffing and funding crisis facing the health service. “The NHS will continue to work flat out, but there is no easy solution to filling its 132,000 vacancies or addressing the horrific underfunding in real terms that services continue to face,” he said.
“If the government really cares about the NHS, it needs to put in place investment for a fully funded workforce plan and ensure it will protect NHS capital budgets to ensure patients are supported, both ahead of winter and in the longer term.” .
Taylor said “the aftershock of the pandemic” was still hitting the NHS, with more than 10,000 people in hospital suffering from coronavirus infections, but he was not solely responsible for the “soaring” pressures on the health system.
However, the figures included some bright spots, such as fewer patients waiting for a diagnostic test in August compared to July. Sarah Clarke, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said it was “testimony to the extremely hard work of health care staff” but said the waiting list of 1.5 million was still too high.
“Staff shortages are the biggest barrier to reducing waiting lists. The new secretary of state promised a long-term workforce plan; this should come by the end of 2022,” he added.
Professor Philip Banfield, chairman of the British Medical Association council, said: “Which way you look at it, these figures are a damning example of what happens when a government persists in not investing properly in or recourse to your health service.”
Responding to the figures, Sir Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director, said: “Despite enormous pressures on the NHS this summer, the incredible work of colleagues across the country meant we delivered more cancer screenings in August. that could save lives than ever before. and reduced 18-month waits by 60 percent over the past year.
“This was despite continued pressure from covid patients at the hospital, which has now increased to more than double the numbers seen in August, and more of the more serious ambulance calls than before the pandemic,” he said. Powis.
In another sign of the strain on public services, figures released on Thursday showed the overstretched criminal justice system was struggling to cope.
The backlog of cases in the crown court jumped to 61,212 in August from 60,380 in July, according to the Justice Ministry. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, the order book was 40,000.
The latest figures reflect the full impact of the industrial action of criminal lawyers who carried out sporadic strikes in July and August, after rejecting the government’s offer on legal aid fees, before starting a permanent strike from September 5. . They returned to work on Tuesday. this week after accepting a new improved offer.
additional reporting by Jane Croft