The winter crisis is officially the worst on record according to performance data.
Figures from NHS England reveal patient waiting times, bed shortages and ambulance handover delays reached unprecedented levels despite Prime Minister Theresa May’s claims that the NHS was ‘better prepared for winter than ever before.’
A record breaking 163,298 patients waited more than half an hour to be handed over to Accident and Emergency, A&E, departments, which is three times higher than in 2013-2014 where this number was 54,463.
‘Our new analysis today confirms the Government has let down patients on a record scale, despite the heroic efforts of our brilliant NHS staff battling through wind and snow to provide the best possible care,’ said Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary.
On average, hospitals had just 97,897 beds available at any point over winter which is the lowest number recorded – and 2,500 fewer than in 2015.
The second week of January saw A&E managers write to Mrs May warning that patients were ‘dying prematurely in corridors’ and a record 43 ambulance diverts occurred where paramedic crews were forced to reroute due to overcrowding, according to figures from NHS England.
Last week an editorial published in the British Medical Journal revealed that during the first seven weeks of January 2018 there were 10,000 additional deaths.
During the same period in the past five years, the average number of deaths was 83,615 and this year saw that number rise to 93,990.
According to the authors, Lucinda Hiam, Danny Dorling and Halford Makinder, flu and an ageing population were not the cause of these mortalities and they suggest that sustained underfunding of health services needs to be investigated and addressed.
‘We and others have already called for an urgent investigation by the House of Commons health select committee,’ the editorial read.
‘We did this because the Department of Health and Social Care is not taking the slowdown in improvements in mortality seriously. The figures for this year make the case for an investigation both stronger and more urgent with each passing day.’
The Labour party is now calling for an ‘urgent enquiry’ into the lack of winter preparations this year and for an apology from the government for the harm chronic underfunding has caused to both patients and NHS staff.