NHS Winter Crisis Pressures All Year

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A BMA analysis shows that winter pressures will extend right through summer. The NHS can expect to see performance this summer as poor as that seen in recent winters, as so-called ‘winter pressures’ extend right through the year, according to new analysis from the British Medical Association.

The health service came under unprecedented pressure this winter, with A&E attendances, waiting times and admissions reaching alarming levels, and while summer would normally see the situation ease, the BMA says levels of demand and activity this summer will mirror winters of just two or three years ago. Using official data from the last five years, the BMA’s health policy team were able to forecast a number of scenarios for this summer’s NHS performance, measured in A&E attendances, waiting times, admissions and trolley waits. The worst-case scenario would see the health service see a repeat of scenes experienced during winter 2016.

Best-case scenario for July, August, September 2018 (projected): • 5.89 million attendances at A&E • 613,000 people waiting over four hours at A&E • 89.6 per cent of patients seen, admitted or discharged within four hours • 1.51 million emergency admissions

• 127,000 trolley waits of four or more hours

Worst-case scenario for July, August, September 2018 (projected): • 6.2 million attendances at A&E

• 774,000 people waiting over four hours at A&E

• 87.5 per cent of patients seen, admitted or discharged within four hours • 1.57 million emergency admissions • 147,000 trolley waits of four or more hours

The implications for trusts are that winter contingency plans continue to remain in place; for example, the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust is planning to keep its extra winter capacity open until the summer. As the process of dealing with the fallout of massive spikes in demand and pressures during the winter months now extends into summer, it begins to overlap with the early stages of planning for the following winter.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: ‘This data clearly shows what doctors working on the front line have been saying for some time – that the “winter crisis” has truly been replaced by a year-round crisis. ‘The BMA estimates that health funding in England is more than £7 billion a year behind comparable European countries and this could rise to over £11 billion over the next three years.’