The NHS has released its latest report on the performance of the provider sector, covering July to September 2018, shows that hospitals admitted nearly 1,000 more emergency patients a day than in the same period last year, treating 5.52 million patients within the four-hour target.
On top of this, hospitals have been able to discharge more patients from their services sooner, including reducing the number of beds occupied by patients who have been there for more than three weeks (classed as a ‘long-stay patients’), freeing up the equivalent of 2,470 beds in time for winter.
However, these achievements come as:
- waiting times for planned treatment, such as routine non-urgent operations, have increased
- vacancies for doctors and nurses still stand at over 100,000 despite some improvements
- the provider sector’s deficit is forecast to be £558 million by the end of March
The Long Term Plan will set out a clear path to recovery and for sustaining and improving patient care in England over the next decade, including how the £20.5 billion of additional real-terms funding from the government will be spent over the next five years from April 2019.
It will include a focus on preventing ill health and a commitment to invest £3.5 billion a year in primary and community healthcare services in order to cut avoidable hospital admissions and to help patients return home sooner. It will also seek to eliminate provider deficits.
Ian Dalton, Chief Executive of NHS Improvement said: ‘The NHS is working flat out to ensure record numbers of patients get the care they need. Frontline staff and managers deserve tremendous praise for their heroism. But this achievement continues to come at a cost with performance targets not being met nationally and hospitals being unable to balance their books to cover the increased demand on their services. The Long Term Plan is our opportunity to fundamentally redesign how the NHS works so that it can continue to provide high-quality care for patients.’
Responding to today’s report, Siva Anandaciva, Chief Analyst at The King’s Fund, said:
‘Today’s report is a warning that the NHS is heading for another very tough winter, with rising demand for services and staff shortages taking an increasingly heavy toll on patient care.
‘We have become used to key targets being missed, but the increase in the number of patients forced to experience long waits for care is a significant concern. The number of people stuck on hospital waiting lists for more than a year or spending more than 12 hours in A&E is worryingly high, and far worse than at this time last year. Tackling long waits for hospital treatment must be a top priority for NHS England’s clinical review of waiting times.
‘Despite the eye-watering financial deficits reported by many hospitals, the NHS as a whole remains close to financial balance, underlining the need for significant reforms to NHS financial management in the forthcoming NHS long-term plan.
‘As we get closer to the publication of the long-term plan, it is becoming increasingly clear that the new funding will not be enough to address all the pressures facing the service – ‘resetting’ performance back to desirable levels is highly ambitious. It is therefore vital that the plan dedicates sufficient funding for developing new models of care, building on the work currently taking place in integrated care systems up and down the country.’