IN RESPONSE to the most recent NHS performance statistics and the political situation in which they are occurring, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) director in England Patricia Marquis is warning: ‘With one in ten nursing posts currently vacant in England alone – the situation will not change unless the NHS manages to recruit more staff.
‘Today’s statistics show that whether it’s a hospital treatment, a cancer diagnosis or care or a simple GP appointment, patients are having to wait longer and longer.
‘The number of people waiting for planned treatment in hospital reached its highest number ever in May, with 4.4 million patients on the list. This is no surprise when NHS England themselves attribute the delays highlighted in the monthly waiting time statistics to “continued staffing and bed pressures”.
‘For cancer referral and treatment targets are still being missed. With evidence showing that shorter waiting times lead to earlier diagnosis and improved outcomes, we need action to drive improvement in this vital area.’
In spite of these difficulties and obstacles, nevertheless, no one is seriously disputing that NHS staff – and in particular GPs, according to a survey published just last week – are ‘a testament to hard work’ amid rising pressures.
Responding this week to the just-published GP Patient Survey 2019, BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey stressed:
‘These figures clearly demonstrate that the majority of patients remain satisfied with their experience at GP surgeries in England – with more than 80 per cent rating this as good, only a minor fall on last year’s results.’
Dr Vautrey added: ‘Meanwhile an overwhelming 95 per cent of patients have ‘‘confidence and trust’’ in the practitioner they last saw.
‘These high levels of satisfaction are a testament to how hard GPs and their teams are working in practices up and down the country, and come against a backdrop of a rising population and diminishing GP numbers.
‘Indeed, other data released today show that practices are now caring for 720,000 more patients than they were this time last year, while according to the most recent figures the number of full-time equivalent GPs has fallen by more than 400.
‘We recognise that patients are often waiting too long for appointments, and this is equally frustrating for GPs and their teams. With the launch of Primary Care Networks, and the introduction of additional practice-based staff, we hope that patients will receive quicker access to the right healthcare professional while freeing up GPs to see those who need their expertise most.
‘In doing so, general practice can maintain the high levels of patient satisfaction it is so proud of.’
Even so, and at the same time, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Jonathan Ashworth has specifically warned: ‘While the Health Secretary plays Tory leadership games, patients continue to suffer deteriorating care.
‘Patients will find it staggering that this summer A&E performance so far has actually been worse than it was in the run-up to Christmas, and those stranded on trolleys in overcrowded hospitals is up 376% compared to last June.
‘What’s more, the waiting list for treatment is at a record high with patients waiting longer in pain and distress for treatment.
‘This is an NHS in a year-round crisis thanks to years of cutbacks and understaffing. The Health Secretary must park his obsession with gimmicks, gizmos and gadgets and get a grip of the plummeting standards of patient care happening on his watch.’
It is in this context that cuts have created a situation characterised by:
- A&E closure, maternity closures, children’s ward closures
- Official data show steep year-on-year decline in A&E performance for quarter one
- National performance for a traditionally quiet three months worst in eight years
- Lancashire and London have the worst-performing trusts, while the NHS has recorded its worst first quarter accident and emergency performance since records started, data released have just revealed. Performance against the four-hour target in April, May and June was significantly worse than the previous three years, the official statistics showed.
- The service saw 85.3 per cent of patients in April within four hours, 86.6 per cent in May and 86.4 per cent in June, against a national target of 95 per cent. In the past three years, the national performance against the all-types performance was around 90 per cent in Q1.
- The latest figures come at a time when NHS England and Improvement (NHSE/I) is reviewing the four-hour target, which has not been achieved since August 2014. As part of this, it is trialling potential new measures at 14 trusts, which have not reported their four-hour data since this April.
- Of the trusts that reported A&E performance for June 2019, London and Lancashire had the worst performing trusts against the type one measure, which looks at data from units with a 24/7 consultant presence.
• Of the 10 trusts with the lowest performance against the 95 per cent target, four – King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust, The Hillingdon Hospitals FT, Croydon Health Services Trust and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust – were in London.
• The two lowest performers in June were Lancashire Teaching Hospitals FT and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals FT, which recorded performances of 56.2 per cent and 60.5 per cent respectively.
- Of the sustainability and transformation partnership areas, Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire had the worst performance at 66.3 per cent.
- NHSE/I also released data for performance of waiting lists for elective procedures, which broke records for the third month in a row. The total waiting list has now exceeded 4 million for the whole of the 2018-19 financial year – higher than any time since records started in 2007-08.
NHSE/I pointed out the number of patients waiting more than a year in May had fallen 67 per cent, to 1,032 – but it never discloses how many of these procedures have been outsourced to private providers.
• Director of research and chief economist at the Nuffield Trust John Appleby told the Health Service Journal: ‘The performance data look pretty appalling. Trolley waits up, diagnostic waits up, A&E four percentage points worse than the same period last year. Elective waits at record highs.’