Small Drop In NHS Waiting Times At End of November 2022
There has been a slight fall in the number of patients waiting for NHS hospital treatment, The Daily Mail reports. Numbers have decreased slightly from record highs of 7.21 million in October, to 7.19 million at the end of November, which represents a drop of 410,983 patients who have been waiting for over a year to start treatment.
The government plans to eliminate waits of over a year to start NHS treatment by 2025, but at the moment that target seems out of reach. A combination of factors are putting extraordinary pressure on the healthcare system at the moment, and so far there are few signs that these will be resolved quickly.
It is estimated that one in seven hospital beds are taken up by patients who are medically fit to be discharged, but have nowhere to go because of problems with the social care system. This is causing a severe shortage of beds for new admissions, leaving ambulances queueing for hours with emergency patients.
There are also severe staffing shortages, which puts extra pressure on the existing workforce and affects the amount of patients that can be seen each day in hospitals and GP surgeries. Furthermore, the usual spike in winter flu cases is accompanied this year by an uptick in Covid and the Strep A virus, which has led to the death of 30 children so far.
Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England, said: “As staff responded to record A&E attendances, 999 calls and emergency ambulance call outs as the "twindemic" [Covid and flu] led to unprecedented levels of respiratory illness in hospital, they also continued to deliver for patients with more people than ever before receiving diagnostic tests and cancer treatment.”
He added: “These figures show just how hard our staff are working, not only in the face of extreme pressure but also in bringing down the Covid backlogs and checking more people for cancer than ever before in one month.”
'While services continue to be pressured, it's important the public continue to play their part by using the best services for their care — using 999 in an emergency and otherwise using 111 online and by getting their vaccinations if eligible.”
Tim Gardner, senior policy fellow at the Health Foundation, said: “Today’s data show the NHS is facing an emergency but the roots of this lie in political choices made over the last decade, not the cold weather or seasonal flu.”
“Waits for cancer treatment reached new highs in 2022, while the waiting list for routine operations is 7.2million. Behind these numbers are patients left in pain, people enduring unnecessary suffering and, in some cases, lives tragically lost.”
Meanwhile, pay negotiations are continuing between healthcare unions and the government, to try and reach an acceptable deal. So far, nurses and ambulance staff have held strikes to protest at pay rises that they claim do not reflect the rising cost of living.
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