A&Es see busiest month on record as summer NHS crisis hits with 5.3m on waiting list

Hospitals stretched to the limit as NHS waiting list grows to largest number since 2007

Shaun Lintern
Health Correspondent
Thursday 08 July 2021 10:49
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<p>A&E departments have seen their busiest month on record</p>

A&E departments have seen their busiest month on record

Major hospital emergency departments have recorded their busiest month on record with 1.43 million patients needing to be seen last month, according to the latest statistics.

It comes as hospitals across the country have declared black alerts over the pressure they are under, with operations being cancelled due to rising Covid admissions and NHS leaders warning patient care will be affected if Coronavirus infections reach 100,000 a day this summer.

The latest data from NHS England has also revealed the NHS waiting list has increased by 200,000 patients in May, with a total of 5.3 million people waiting for an operation.

This is the highest number since records began in August 2007.

A&E attendances at hospitals in England last month were 53 per cent higher than a year ago - a reflection on the impact of the pandemic in 2020.

Across all types of A&E departments a total of 2.16 million patients turned up to be seen in June, compared with 1.4 million in June 2020. In the same month in 2019 there were 2.11 million attendances.

In the busiest 24-hour units 1.43 million patients attending hospital in June, compared to 1.3 million in 2019

Emergency admissions, where a patient needs to be treated overnight in hospital, hit 535,175 patients in June, up from 437,601 in 2020, during the Covid pandemic. The equivalent figure for June 2019 was 528,801.

In total 66, 619 patients waited longer than four hours to be admitted to a bed once the decision had been made, meaning their total time waiting would be higher.

More than 1,280 patients waited longer than 12 hours to be admitted to a bed after a decision was made by doctors.

In terms of the number of patients waiting longer than a year, hospitals have begun to reduce the numbers as they re-start surgery after the pandemic.

In May, 336,733 patients were waiting more than a year for routine treatment, this was down from 385,490 in April but still significantly up on the numbers waiting just 12 months earlier in May 2020 when the numbers were at 26,029.

On cancer, a total of 207,188 urgent referrals were made by GPs in England in May, nearly double the number in May last year, which was 106,741.

The equivalent figure for May 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 200,796.

Urgent referrals where breast cancer symptoms were present - though not initially suspected - were up from 5,415 in May last year to 13,241 in May 2021.

But nearly 300,000 patients in England have waited more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in May, although this is down on the figure in 2020 which was 572,615.

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth MP said: “More than five million people on the waiting list means record numbers waiting in pain or distress for treatment.

“We know that hospitals are already under extreme pressure this summer and as Covid cases continue to rise this is only going to get worse. Sajid Javid has failed to put forward a plan to bring infections down, to clear the backlog or to support our NHS in this difficult period, instead he’s proposing a top down reorganisation of our health service when it is under more pressure than ever before.”

NHS England said the number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for elective care dropped by more than 80,000 in May with the average wait at 10.8 weeks in May, down by 29 per cent on May 2020.

In total 12.8 million patients were admitted to hospital in 2020-21, with 30 people receiving care for non-Covid conditions for every one person admitted with the virus.

NHS England medical director Stephen Powis said: “Despite the huge disruption we have seen to care caused by the pandemic and the more than 405,000 Covid patients in our hospitals over the last 15 months, it is reassuring to see in today’s figures significant reductions in waits for routine operations, and for the first time this year, a reduction in the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment.

“All the while, NHS staff have dealt with rising numbers of A&E attendances while continuing to roll out the NHS Covid Vaccination Programme and I would urge anyone who needs a routine operation to come forward, and anyone who needs urgent care, to go to NHS 111 Online or call 111 so that the best option for you can be determined.”

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