Following today’s release of the latest NHS performance data, Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “Pressure has been rising substantially in many parts of the country over recent weeks with growing concerns of overcrowding in both emergency and acute medical units, compromising infection control and patient safety.
“This is being driven by both covid-related illness on top of an increasing seasonal demand and, with data continuing to show how hospitals are struggling greatly before we enter the winter months, we are deeply concerned.
“For only 84.4% of people to be seen within four hours in A&Es despite a decrease in attendance of 26% on last year shows the extent of the difficulties being face – but we must also remember the 95% target has not been met since July 2015 so the issues in our hospitals go back much further than the pandemic.
“It is also distressing to see the total number of patients waiting six weeks or more from referral for one of the 15 key diagnostic tests was 420,400 – 33% of the total number of patients waiting against a target of less than 1%. Unfortunately for many, delays at this stage result in a need for urgent care in the near future.
“These figures clearly show the pressures the system is under, despite the lower overall numbers, is almost certainly due to the restrictions in place to keep covid and non-covid patients separate.
“Lots of finance has been put in to help emergency departments in this respect but very little of that has filtered to the rest of the acute units who receive patients from either ED or primary care.
“The consequences of long term reductions in bed numbers across the NHS combined with thousands of nurse and consultant vacancies is more apparent than ever in this situation.
“Given the challenges we face, one area that is vital to the effort in keeping patients out of hospital beds if it can be safely avoided is the use of Same Day Emergency Care (SDEC), but we know from a recent SAM survey only about a third of these are currently working without some form of restriction.
“We need to try to address this especially in those areas of the county with rising caseloads where the need could be greatest and we will continue to push this at every opportunity.”