latest health care news

13.08.15

NHS fails to meet key targets for urgent and cancer care

The NHS is failing to meet key performance targets in face of increasing demands for hospital services according to data from NHS England released today (13 August).

Yearly figures show growing pressure on urgent and emergency care and elective services, with the need for ambulances up by 7% compared to the last 12-month period, A&E attendances up 1.1%, emergency admissions up 2.7%, diagnostic tests up 5.8% and consultant-led treatment up 5.1%.

However the NHS has not been able to meet the required standards is most of these services.

The goal to answer at least 75% of Red 1 calls within 8 minutes was not met for the fourth month in a row this year, while the same standard for Red 2 calls has been unmet for the eighth month running.

Category A calls, of which 95% should be attended to within 19 minutes, also failed to meet the target.

Though most patients in A&E were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, the goal to see at least 95% of attendants within that timeframe was not reached.

The pattern continued throughout elective care, with 1.8% of patients waiting more than six weeks for referral for one of the 15 key diagnostic tests – nearly double the necessary standard.

Two of the eight outlined cancer standards were unsatisfactory, including the 62-day cancer waiting times and two-week waiting times for potential breast symptoms.

This comes less than a month after a study by Cancer Research UK scientists found that patients who have to see a GP more than three times before being referred for cancer tests are more likely to be dissatisfied with their overall care.

Dr Barbara Hakin, national director of commissioning operations for NHS England, said the comprehensive picture of the service’s performance “underlines the need for redesigned services as set out in the NHS’ Five Year Forward View”.

She added: “It shows high performance levels across the country, in the face of growing demand for care treatments as a result of our growing and ageing population. Across the board the data shows increased pressures, all supported by a resilient NHS with remarkable frontline staff.

“And having recently published the report of the independent cancer taskforce, we plan to take comprehensive action on cancer care, improving survival rates and saving thousands more lives.”

Despite soaring demands, NHS 111 service showed improvements – yet the number of calls received was at its lowest since October 2015.

However, the proportion of calls abandoned after waiting longer than 30 seconds was also the lowest within the same timeframe– while nearly 95% of calls were answered within 60 seconds.

Following today’s publication NHS England is investigating mental health waiting times statistics and considering other potential data to be collected.

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