Cancelled operations and delayed discharges from hospitals in England have both increased in number by 20% or more this winter compared to last year, further confirming the NHS is “stretched to the limit,” according to a health policy charity.
The King’s Fund’s latest quarterly monitoring report, which looks at NHS data over a three-month period, found the average number of delayed discharges from hospital increased “sharply” to 5,026 per day during November.
This represented a near 20% increase since the start of the year in January, which averaged at 4,194 delays each day.
It is the highest number in four years, since September 2010, when the average was last around 5,000 delays per day, noted the report.
The King’s Fund found that data indicated bed capacity and workforce issues - particularly in nursing homes and non-acute services – were becoming increasingly responsible for the increase in delays, as opposed to social care funding cuts.
The report also noted the number of cancelled operations from November to January had gone up by a third compared to the same time in 2013.
“The findings from this quarter’s report show that services are stretched to the limit”
And the figures reveal that the target for 95% of outpatients to receive treatment within 18 weeks was missed in November.
Data from trusts showed 12.5% of outpatients waited more than 18 weeks during this month, marking the first time the target has been breached since 2008.
The King’s Fund report follows high-profile coverage of pressure on accident and emergency departments and an increase in the number of attendances.
While A&E attendances were up on previous years, the charity noted there had been a much higher number of patients waiting to be admitted to a hospital beds from A&E than in prior years.
This implied the pressures were also a result of problems with bed numbers in other parts of the hospitals and flow through them, it said.
John Appleby, chief economist at The King’s Fund, said: “While recent attention has focused on the problems faced by A&E units, performance against waiting time targets and other indicators has continued worsen.
“Taken together, the findings from this quarter’s report show that services are stretched to the limit. With financial problems also endemic among hospitals and staff morale a significant cause for concern, the situation is now critical.”
Read the full report: