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‘Difficult winter’ ahead as NHS performance declines


9 December 2016

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Growing demand on NHS resources is leaving the service open to “serious lapses in care” this winter, a think tank has warned.

Following the release of NHS performance statistics for October, think tanks have warned the NHS to prepare for a “difficult winter” as some figures are already comparable to those in the middle of winter last year.

In October, one in 10 patients waited more than four hours at A&E, a similar admissions rate to that of December 2015.

Growing demand on NHS resources is leaving the service open to “serious lapses in care” this winter, a think tank has warned.

Following the release of NHS performance statistics for October, think tanks have warned the NHS to prepare for a “difficult winter” as some figures are already comparable to those in the middle of winter last year.

In October, one in 10 patients waited more than four hours at A&E, a similar admissions rate to that of December 2015.

At 48,800 patients, this figure is also 54.6% higher than the number of patients left waiting for more than four hours in October last year.

The statistics also found that there were 200,000 bed days lost because of delays when discharging patients, while one in 14 people in England are now on a waiting list.

John Appleby, chief economist at the Nuffield Trust, said: “These figures reveal just how tough things are for the NHS as winter approaches.

He added that although NHS staff have worked hard to protect patients from the effects of budget cuts, “we are now reaching the point at which the pressures on the NHS are so great that the service is vulnerable to serious lapses of care”.

Richard Murray, director of policy at the King’s Fund, said: “These figures show the NHS is heading towards a difficult winter, with services under huge pressure and struggling to meet key targets.

He added that the number of bed days lost highlights the impact of social care budget cuts on the NHS, “which is why senior figures from both the health and social care sectors have made the case for the government to increase funding for social care”.

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