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Worst NHS figures ever triggered by ‘unprecedented funding slowdown’

Failure to meet NHS performance targets in A&E admission and ambulance response is at its worst since records began, which the CEO of the Health Foundation said were triggered by an ‘unprecedented’ slowdown in funding.

In February 2016, 87.8% of A&E patients were seen within four hours, well below the 95% target and the lowest performance since the NHS began recording data for the second month in a row.

Similarly, 68% of Red 1 ambulance calls were answered within eight minutes, meaning the 75% target was missed for the ninth month in a row. Red 2 calls have not met the target in over two years and are currently at 60.3%, the lowest since the figure was first recorded in June 2012.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation, said that the figures were particularly concerning given the mild winter and highlighted the impact of funding problems on the NHS.

Dr Dixon said: “The root cause of deteriorating performance is an unprecedented slowdown in funding for the NHS – now halfway through the most austere decade of funding growth since records began in 1948 – and severe cuts to social care, impacting specifically older people.

“Providers are struggling to accommodate this slowdown because of the sheer pace and scale of changes required. Today’s performance figures, while worrying, are entirely predictable.”

The figures did also show a higher demand for NHS services, with A&E attendances increasing by 1.6% over the past 12 months.

Richard Baker, interim national director of commissioning operations and information at NHS England, said that the pressures on hospitals were due to a late flu spike in February and March and social care-related delays in care transfers.

But Heidi Alexander, shadow health secretary, argued: “These figures show an NHS on its knees and in crisis. Under David Cameron we’re heading back to the bad old days of patients waiting hours on end in overcrowded A&E departments or stuck on trolleys because no beds are available.”

There were 157,569 days of delayed transfer of care, compared to 134,353 at the same time last year.

The rate of patients waiting six weeks or longer for referral after cancer diagnosis tests was at 1.6%, above the 1% target, although this was the lowest since October 2014. The NHS also met its 92% target for patients starting consultant-led elective care within 18 weeks at 92.1%.

The NHS also published its first performance figures on mental health, following extensive criticism of the provision of services.

The target for treatment of patients experiencing first-episode psychosis is 50%, and the NHS exceeded this target at 65.3%. However, the data is experimental.

Recent figures suggest around £600m will be withheld from trusts for failing to meet targets.

(Image c. Peter Byrne)



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