NHS performance

NHS performance improves despite record demand: Faster cancer diagnoses, shorter A&E stays

NHS England’s (NHSE) latest data indicates that, despite record demand on staff, performance has been improved in a number of key areas.

For the first time, the health service exceeded its faster cancer diagnosis target in February with nearly four in five (78.1%) people getting an all-clear or diagnosis within four weeks.

Monthly data shows that March was the busiest month ever for emergency departments with 2.35 million attendances, nearly 8.6% higher than the same month last year. There were also more than 560,000 admissions in March – 6.6% higher than March 2023.

The year up to March 2023 represents the busiest ever year for emergency departments with 26.2 million patients presenting, which is a 5.7% increase on the 12 months up to March 2019.

In spite of the pressure, almost a quarter (74.2%) of patients spent less than four hours in emergency departments last month, which is better than last March’s 71.5% figure.

Ambulance response times improved across all categories even though demand was more intense, compared to last year.

February saw 6.29 million patients make up a 7.54 million-long waiting list and 1.48 million treatments get delivered, which is 9% more than the same month prior to the pandemic.

NHSE says that, given community paediatric waits were moved to a different dataset, the overall waiting list remained stable in February, following four consecutive months of drops.

Victoria Atkins comment

By the end of February, the number of patients waiting 65+ weeks for treatment stood at just over 75,000 (down 19% from January), with most of these patients being concentrated at a small number of trusts.

The number of diagnostic tests delivered was a record for a February too, with 2.24 million tests, checks and scans overall.

NHSE’s national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “Today’s data demonstrates once again how the NHS is working flat out to recover services and bring down waiting times for patients, despite enormous demand on services”.

He added that “there is further to go and our ambitious recovery work continues, but it is clear the NHS is treating more patients more quickly”.

Image credit: iStock

Website cover

NHE May/June 2024

Join the conversation shaping the future of healthcare.

Click below to read more!

More articles...

View all
Online Conference


2024 Online Conferences

In partnership with our community of health sector leaders responsible for delivering the UK's health strategy across the NHS and the wider health sector, we’ve devised a collaborative calendar of conferences and events for industry leaders to listen, learn and collaborate through engaging and immersive conversation. 

All our conferences are CPD accredited, which means you can gain points to advance your career by attending our online conferences. Also, the contents are available on demand so you can re-watch at your convenience.

National Health Executive Podcast

Listen to industry leaders on everything within healthcare

Whether it's the latest advancements in medical technology, healthcare policies, patient care innovations, or the challenges facing healthcare providers, we cover it all.


Join us as we engage with top healthcare professionals, industry leaders, and policy experts to bring you insightful conversations that matter.