Following the release today of NHS performance data for March, Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said:
“This has been and continues to be an extremely challenging time for urgent care in the NHS which has been overlooked amid the chaos of Brexit and the smokescreen it has created, with politicians on all sides not only posturing about Europe but now also starting to position themselves for any possible elections while performance against urgent care access figures remains low.
“Although winter officially ‘finished’ on the 3 March when the NHS stopped publishing data on weekly pressures, it is still very much ongoing in our units which are under considerable strain.
“In March, the proportion of patients seen and discharged from our emergency departments was only 86.6% across the board but down at 79.5% for the Type 1 units were our sickest patients arrive at. This is marginally better than the month before and March 2018 but worse than 2017 and the last time the 95% target was met was July 2015.
“This is despite staff working their now almost routine miracles looking after more patients than they ever have before with more than two million people coming to these areas in the month representing 5.7% more people than last year but with no real extra resource to cope. In fact, the number of inpatient beds available to the system is now 10.1 per 100 people aged over 75 which is the lowest in six years according to Public Health England.
“My major imminent concern is that hospitals are working flat out at the moment and we have a looming spell of bank holidays when many support services will not be functioning, heaping up the already relentless pressure.
“Major issues remain in community care, there is a staffing crisis and trusts are being asked to care for more patients with worsening conditions – yet the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England have been relentless in their positivity.
“It remains to be seen how the government can explain removing the four-hour access target in such a climate of recurrent failure and it must not be seen as simply changing goal posts that have been in place for very good reasons just because the system cannot achieve them to the detriment of patient care and staff wellbeing.”