‘There is no shying away from the reality that the NHS is deep in crisis, as demonstrated by unprecedented strikes and widespread, serious and sustained problems in quality of care, despite the best efforts of health care staff.
‘The figures show this is particularly true in emergency care, with patients waiting more than an hour and a half on average for an ambulance when they have a condition like a stroke or heart attack, and even when they get to hospital nearly 55,000 people are stuck in A&E on trolleys waiting more than 12 hours. Since modern records began, A&E performance is the worst it has ever been and not a single NHS trust in the country is managing to meet the national target to be seen within fours.
‘While there are huge delays in admitting patients, there are also serious issues in discharging patients – with more than 13,000 people stuck in hospital despite being medically fit to leave. Meanwhile, the waiting list for planned hospital care remains stubbornly at more than 7 million and cancer services are also under pressure, which underlines the challenge in meeting the government’s latest pledge to reduce waiting lists by the end of 2023.
‘Given the crisis at hand, this week’s emergency £250 million cash injection from the government will be welcomed by the health care system, but real concerns remain that this short-term boost comes so late into the winter and will take time to reach frontline services and improve care for patients.
‘Ultimately short-term fixes won’t solve long term challenges. A timeline on the upcoming workforce plan would be a good starting point to signal longer term thinking from the government.
‘Waiting times can be reduced, as seen in the early 2000s, if services have a clear focus and the right levels of investment and staffing. Without these conditions, it is unlikely that sustained pressures across the system will ease.’
Notes to editors
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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.