The latest data published by NHS England show performance figures in various areas dropping as A&E attendances and cases of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 increase throughout the country

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Latest performance data for emergency care in England demonstrate a ‘dire’ situation, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has said.

Figures from NHS England (NHSE) showed a record number of patients in November who waited more than 12 hours in A&E departments for hospital admission following a decision to admit them.

Out of 111 hospital trusts with type 1 emergency departments, none achieved the operational standard stating that 95% of patients should be admitted, transferred, or discharged within 4 hours of their arrival at an A&E department, the statistics showed.

The 95% standard was last met in July 2015.

The data comes as cases of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 increase throughout the country.

Dr Simon Walsh, Deputy Chair of the British Medical Association Consultants Committee, said: ‘Today’s figures, coming the day after the announcement from the Westminster Government that we’re now having to move to Plan B, underline just how perilous the situation is on the NHS front line right now.’

Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the RCEM, commented: ‘Every part of the patient journey through emergency care is broken. In a different time, this would be a scandal.’

According to NHSE, there were 2,040,000 A&E attendances last month—an increase of 37.4% on the same period last year, making it the second busiest November on record.

Emergency hospital admissions stood at 506,000 in the month—11.5% higher than November 2020.

Performance figures

The NHS figures showed that:

  • 74.0% of patients were seen within 4 hours in all A&E departments in November, compared to 73.9% in the previous month and 83.8% in November 2020
  • 61.89% of patients were seen within 4 hours in type 1 A&E departments, compared to 61.94% in October and 76.8% in November last year
  • 121,000 patients faced 4-hour admission delays in November, compared to 71,000 at the same time in 2020
    • of those, 10,646 waited for more than 12 hours, compared to 2148 in November last year.

The RCEM said the figures showed that 94% of beds in type 1 acute trusts were occupied—9% above the recommended safe level of 85%.

On average over the week ending December 5, there were 10,500 beds occupied by patients fit to be discharged each day. However, NHSE said the true number could be higher.

‘With 1 in 10 beds occupied by patients who are ready to leave, the need for better availability of social care has never been more apparent,’ Dr Henderson said.

NHS National Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis, said: ‘As we head into a very challenging winter, we are working with partners in social care to get as many patients who are fit to do so home for Christmas, which is right for them and their families, as well as freeing up beds.’

Ambulance handover delays

The pressure on emergency departments was highlighted by latest statistics that showed that 8211 patients arriving at hospitals in England last week waited for more than an hour before receiving care at type 1 A&Es.

That was 9.8% of the 83,893 arrivals by ambulance.

Additionally, a further 11,155 patients (13.3%) faced delays of between 30 and 60 minutes.

Cancer referrals

More figures published today showed a continued deterioration in some aspects of cancer care.

The number of people in England who were unable to see a consultant for suspected cancer within 2 weeks of an urgent GP referral increased to 42,430 in October, compared with 24,722 in the same month last year.

Performance slipped to 81.3% of referrals, compared to 92.6% in February last year before the full effects of COVID were felt by the health service. Both months’ performance figures were below the operational standard of 93%.

The statistics showed that 185,000 patients out of 227,430 in October were seen within 2 weeks of referral.

The number of people with a 1-month wait before starting treatment for cancer following a decision to treat stood at 93.5% against an operational standard of 96% in October this year.

Macmillan Cancer Support said the number who waited more than a month to start treatment was the second highest ever on record.

Its own analysis suggested that the NHS in England would need to work at 110% capacity for 17 months to catch up on missing cancer diagnoses, and for 13 months to clear the cancer treatment backlog.

This article was originally published on Medscape, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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