NHS Improvement’s latest report on the performance of the provider sector, covering July to September 2018, shows that hospitals admitted nearly 1,000 more emergency patients a day than in the same period last year, treating 5.52 million patients within the four-hour target.
On top of this, hospitals have been able to discharge more patients from their services sooner, including reducing the number of beds occupied by patients who have been there for more than three weeks (classed as a ‘long-stay patients’), freeing up the equivalent of 2,470 beds in time for winter.
However, these achievements come as waiting times for planned treatment, such as routine non-urgent operations, have increased, vacancies for doctors and nurses still stand at over 100,000 despite some improvements and the provider sector’s deficit is forecast to be £558 million by the end of March.
The Long Term Plan will set out a clear path to recovery and for sustaining and improving patient care in England over the next decade, including how the £20.5 billion of additional real-terms funding from the government will be spent over the next five years from April 2019.
It will include a focus on preventing ill health and a commitment to invest £3.5 billion a year in primary and community healthcare services in order to cut avoidable hospital admissions and to help patients return home sooner. It will also seek to eliminate provider deficits.
Ian Dalton, Chief Executive of NHS Improvement “The NHS is working flat out to ensure record numbers of patients get the care they need. Frontline staff and managers deserve tremendous praise for their heroism.”
“But this achievement continues to come at a cost with performance targets not being met nationally and hospitals being unable to balance their books to cover the increased demand on their services.”
“The Long Term Plan is our opportunity to fundamentally redesign how the NHS works so that it can continue to provide high-quality care for patients.”
Commenting on quarterly figures from healthcare regulator NHS Improvement, Nuffield Trust Senior Policy Analyst Sally Gainsbury said:
“As NHS leaders prepare to publish their Long-Term Plan for the health service, today’s figures underline just how serious the financial and staffing problems facing NHS organisations are.”
“The projected deficit of £558m reported today includes £2.45bn of emergency funding, as well as some very optimistic assumptions about extra efficiencies to be made. So despite making some impressive savings so far this year , NHS providers are struggling to reduce the underlying gap between their regular, predictable income and their day-to-day running costs. We calculate this underlying deficit will be around £4.2bn by the end of the financial year.”
“This means that NHS providers will be starting next year – when the Long-Term Plan and new NHS money kicks in – still underwater financially. NHS trusts will need a substantial recurrent funding boost, as well as additional emergency support for at least the next three years, limiting the funds available for expensive new commitments in the Long-Term Plan.”
“What’s more, today’s figures reveal that NHS vacancies still remain at around 100,000 and we are suffering from troubling shortages in nurses and doctors, with 10,000 of these vacancies not even being filled by temporary staff. This raises real concerns about patient safety and suggests there is unsustainable pressure on NHS staff.”