New data shows 'rising levels of unmet need for care': The King's Fund responds to today's NHS combined performance summary

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Commenting on today’s NHS combined performance summary, Sally Warren, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, said:

‘Over the past few months the health and care system has, rightly, prioritised dealing with the immediate impact of Covid-19. However, the latest national hospital performance data released today suggests worrying delays in when people choose to seek urgent medical treatment, and rising levels of unmet need for care building up in the system.

‘In April attendances at A&E were 57 per cent lower than in April 2019, suggesting the public may be reluctant to use NHS and social care services for fear of infection. This raises concerns about whether people are delaying seeking urgent treatment for serious health issues such as chest pain or stroke symptoms.

‘National performance data is heavily hospital focused and therefore only tells part of the story. There have been multiple hidden front lines during this crisis in services such as social care, community health and mental health where there are also likely to have been increases in demand, and there is a risk that deep-rooted health inequalities are widening further.

‘As we warn today in a joint letter with the Health Foundation and the Nuffield Trust, it will take many more months before NHS and social care organisations are able to fully restart services following the Covid-19 outbreak. While it is true that some routine health care is now resuming, it will take time before services are operating at full capacity again. Staff are exhausted, the public need to be reassured that services are safe, and health and care providers need to adapt to manage infection control. Getting health and care services up and running again will be a complex task and it will be essential to focus on all parts of the system, not just hospitals.’

Notes to editors

Chief executives of The King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation will appear at a Health and Social Care Select Committee evidence session later today (14 May), highlighting some of the key challenges in restarting NHS and social care services in the months ahead.

  1. The latest monthly combined performance figures from NHS England can be found at: www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/
  2. 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.

For further information or to request an interview, please contact Gemma Umali on g.umali@kingsfund.org.uk or call 07584 146035.