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Difficult Winter Ahead for NHS as Demand for Care Increases

The latest Quarterly Monitoring Report (QMR) from The King’s Fund shows large rises in the demand for healthcare which means the National Health Service (NHS) is heading into winter with its finances pressure and presentation against several key indicators at their worst level for more than a decade.

The king’s Fund report covers the period July to September and discloses that the NHS is currently treating more patients than ever before. The rising demand for healthcare services is reflected in the number of GP referrals. The GP referrals have increased by around 3% over the past years, whilst emergency admissions via A&E have increased by 4% than the same quarter in 2015.

All this is putting pressure on NHS services, which are struggling to maintain the standards of care as a result. The QMR shows:

  • 9.4% of patients waited more than 18 weeks to start hospital treatment. It is the worst performance since targets were modified in 2012.
  • 9.4% of patients attending A&E have waited more than 4 hours. It is the worst performance for this time of year for more than a decade.
  • 568,774 bed days were lost as a result of delays in discharging patients from hospital; this is 29% higher than in the same quarter 2015

The NHS is expected to stabilise its finances in 2016/17, but about a third of NHS trusts predicted that they will miss their ‘control total’ financial targets. This is up from 13% in the last quarter.

The Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, Chris Ham said the increasing demand of treatment is putting NHS services in pressure. The NHS needs to increase its efforts to manage the demand and this will require investment in out-of-hospital services via the sustainability and transformation plans (STP) which is currently being developed across the England.

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