Latest NHS performance data highlights “huge pressure” on urgent and emergency care – SAM president

Commenting today (10 February) on the latest NHS performance data which shows more than six million people are now waiting for non-urgent treatment and a record 16,558 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England in January, Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said:

“Urgent and emergency care services remain under significant pressure with high numbers of emergency presentations, increasingly complex patients with multiple health problems and delays in patient discharges due to social care challenges. 

“In addition to this we have increasing waiting times for non-urgent services resulting in a greater proportion of patients deteriorating while waiting for intervention and thus requiring acute care. 

“Proposals announced by the Health Secretary to tackle the six million patients on waiting lists are of clear importance, however, today’s figures highlight once again the huge pressures urgent and emergency care is under.

“Emergency and non-urgent care are reliant on each other and neither will perform satisfactorily if the other is under significant strain and we risk an ongoing vicious cycle of delays for timely patient care. Recovery plans simply must cater for the whole system, not isolated parts.

“Fatigued staff are struggling with this increased demand coupled with long-standing staffing issues and, as a result, short-term interventions are needed to manage us through this period.

“We have developed six areas of focus to help NHS trusts improve hospital flow – Six to Help Fix – which cover protecting Same Day Emergency Care, optimising diagnostics, ward round and handovers, staffing, access to acute medical units and how other specialities utilise acute care.”