Front-line NHS staff brace themselves for winter crisis period

Recently published data show emergency department and cancer treatment waiting times are going up

NHS Digital data reveals that emergency department and cancer treatment waiting times are going up, leading to worries about pressures on overworked staff

Healthcare leaders are warning of the impact of no-deal Brexit on an already stretched NHS
Healthcare leaders are warning of the impact of no-deal Brexit on an already
stretched NHS. Picture: Alamy

Front-line NHS nurses could experience a ‘difficult winter period’ as the latest performance statistics show rising emergency department attendances and missed cancer targets.

Healthcare leaders are also warning of the possible impact of a no-deal Brexit which could ‘pile even more pressure on overworked NHS staff’.

Data published by NHS Digital in partnership with NHS England and NHS Improvement, show a 4% increase in emergency department attendances during 2018-19 (24.8 million) compared to 2017-18 (23.8 million).

Macmillan Cancer Support also warned the data revealed more than 20,000 people have waited longer than two months to start cancer treatment after being referred with suspected cancer by their GP since the start of 2019.

Emergency care is in a ‘dire position’

NHS Confederation director of membership and policy Nick Ville argued even improvements in the data needed to be taken into context.

‘We find ourselves in a position where a 126.9% increase in patients waiting more than 12 hours is in fact an improvement month-on-month: the figure for July was 192.6%,’ he said.

‘Coupled with increases in the number of patients waiting more than four hours, and missed targets for ambulances and cancer treatment, we are in a dire position.’

British Medical Association consultants committee deputy chair Helen Fidler described the performance figures as extremely worrying.

‘As we move into what will undoubtedly be a difficult winter period the situation will undoubtedly get worse,’ she said.

NHS highlights year-on-year improvements

However, an NHS spokesperson highlighted the year-on-year improvements in the data. 

The spokesperson said: ‘Over summer, NHS staff have continued to deliver more care than ever before for those who need it, with 37,000 more people receiving A&E treatment within four hours this August compared with last August.

‘July also saw the highest ever number of people in a month benefiting from fast NHS cancer checks, other routine tests and rapid treatment for serious mental health problems, while an extra 1,600 people started planned treatment every day compared to last year, showing that every part of the health service is playing its part in meeting the rising demand for care.’

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