Michael Simmons

Six graphs that show how the NHS is collapsing

Six graphs that show how the NHS is collapsing
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If you called an ambulance last month you probably faced quite a long wait. Figures released this morning show the average time for an ambulance to arrive after a ‘category two’ call-out was 51 minutes, only slightly down from 61 minutes in March. This is still nearly three times longer than the 18 minute target for category two emergency calls, which include serious conditions such as strokes or chest pain.

 Pressure is mounting within hospitals too, with 12 hour A&E waits reaching a new high: one in 20 patients now have to wait half a day or more for treatment after arriving at hospital.

Category one emergency calls – where there is an ‘immediate threat to life’ – such as cardiac arrest had an average response time of nine minutes. Ten per cent of such calls took 16 minutes or longer. The target is to respond to 90 per cent of calls within 15 minutes.

The deterioration of emergency services is part of a wider meltdown in the NHS – and things could soon get worse. GPs voted this week to demand limits on the amount of patients they can see and hours they can work in a day. At the moment a GP will see an average of 37 patients a day. But BMA members have now backed a motion, voted for by 70 per cent of members, to have a legal limit set closer to 25 patients a day. They acknowledged this will make waiting times even worse.

Pressure is mounting across the health service and today’s NHS England monthly statistical release is an interesting temperature check of a service that seems to be continuously ‘at breaking point’. What does the latest data show?

1. Twelve hour waits to be admitted from A&E soared last month to another record high of 24,138. Some 28 per cent of patients were not seen within the four hour target either. This is despite the pressure Omicron placed on hospitals easing. Just 7,034 Covid positive patients are currently in England’s hospitals – down from nearly 17,000 in April. Admissions are down a further 10 per cent.

2. The total number of people waiting for hospital treatment for any length of time reached 6.4 million – up nearly 200,000 in a month. Meanwhile, those waiting more than a year for treatment rose by a further 7,000 to 306,000. This is roughly in line with modelling leaked to The Spectator in February which showed NHS planners don’t expect waiting lists to peak until March 2024 – with between nine and 11 million patients expected to be waiting for treatment. That would mean as many as one in five people in England.

3. Ambulance waiting times improved slightly and the mean response for a category two ‘emergency call’ fell by ten minutes to just over 51. Life threatening calls remained around the same as the nine-minute average recorded in March.

4. The 28-day cancer diagnosis target hasn’t been met for the twelfth month running. Seventy-three per cent of suspected patients had cancer confirmed or ruled out within four weeks. The target is 75 per cent.

5. In Scotland things are no better. Just 71 per cent of patients are being treated within the four hour A&E target. Frontline doctors have warned the Covid backlog will take years to clear and the Scottish government doesn’t want to draw attention to its latest health service satisfaction survey which shows declining attitudes towards GP provision.

The latest data comes a week after ONS figures showed government healthcare spending has increased faster than inflation every year since 1998. Britain spent around 12 per cent of GDP on healthcare last year.

With the latest Omicron wave beginning to wane and the weather beginning to warm it is not clear why improvements in the figures aren’t yet coming through. Calls for NHS reform are only going to grow as millions continue to suffer on waiting lists and lives are put at risk from poor access and response times. The NHS’s perpetual state of crisis lives on.

PS The NHS would like us to point out that two year waits for treatment (yes they do exist) have fallen by 6,500 between February and March to just under 17,000 people. Seventy-eight week waits dropped by 5,700.