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System ‘close to breaking point’ – SAM president

Today’s NHS England’s performance data for July showed:

  • 184,200 total delayed days in July 2016 compared to 147,400 in the same month last year
  • 90.3% of patients were seen within four hours in all A&E departments compared to 95% in the same month last year
  • 37,500 four-hour delays from decision to admit to admission compared to 17,300 in the same month last year.

Commenting on the figures, Dr Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “This data reflects a system which is close to breaking down.

“For every 100 people who come to A&E, around 30 are admitted and, of these, 20 come under acute medicine. That number is increasing and our front of house workforce is depleted.

“However, performance is most significantly hampered due to our inability to discharge people at the back door of our hospitals. Failure to get people home is, in my view, a national emergency.”

Dr Holland provided some additional comments to the media which are included below: 

“What monthly performance data has shown us throughout the year so far is that hospitals are facing extreme pressure all year round – effectively an eternal winter.

“We should be winning in July, yet the latest statistics show urgent and emergency care under further strain and a considerable rise in delayed discharges.

“Through our own audits, we know some trusts are performing and coping well despite the difficulties they face, but there are others in a critical condition.

“It is vital struggling hospitals are not shielded by statistics which are averaged out by the better performers.

“While performance data may show things are worse but that the NHS is not in crisis, it will not show the individual trusts that are at breaking point and sinking at pace.

“That poses a real risk to patient safety so it is a matter of urgency that those most in need are given the support and expertise they need to turn things around.

“At the core of the issues facing the NHS is the rapidly increasing number of delayed discharges. The figures are spiralling and are fast becoming disastrous.

“If hospitals cannot discharge patients then the system comes to a halt. We need an overhaul of the discharge and social care process nationally so we can release pressure on front of house services in our hospitals.”

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