NHS faces unprecedented demand

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

The NHS had to cope with unprecedented levels of demand from March 2015-2016 with almost 23m visits to A & E during that period.

Such unprecedented demand has left the NHS missing a number of key operational targets which are designed to provide a snapshot of how well the NHS is performing in figures released by the NHS recently. These have included missed waiting times for patients diagnosed with cancer, routine operations and ambulances. NHS England cited the junior doctors’ dispute as having a particularly adverse effect on the service especially in relation to the waiting times for relatively common operations such as knee and hip replacements.

The figures released show that all 11 ambulance services in the UK have missed all of their targets for the second year in a row. Bed blocking, which is caused when patients cannot be discharged because there is insufficient social care support, was recorded at its highest level in five years.

In spite of these relatively negative figures there was cause for optimism as the number of those patients seen within 4 hours topped 21m which NHS England has claimed was an incredible achievement. The NHS is under increasing pressure to manage the swelling demand of patients whilst also operating within tight financial constraints.

The way that these figures are interpreted depends largely on what angle you chose to view them from. The figures can be read positively, as the NHS is dealing with more patients than ever, and negatively, as the proportion of the total patient population being dealt with on time is falling.

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