Hospitals in England have succeeded in treating more patients within key operating standards, and sustained efficiency levels, despite an extremely challenging operating environment that has placed considerable pressure on NHS staff.
While huge strides have been made in improving the NHS provider sector’s financial position, so far this year NHS trusts and foundation trusts are collectively predicting a full-year deficit of around £623 million - £127 million worse than planned.
This does not include additional pressures and potential spending needed to meet them over the coming winter months.
More patients were treated within waiting time standards
Despite the continued increase in the number of patients attending A&E and those being admitted to hospital as an emergency, the hard work of NHS staff is having a positive impact.
Between July to September 2017:
- 90.2% of emergency patients were seen within four hours – meeting the national ambition of 90% by September
- 3.43 million patients were seen within 18 weeks, compared with 3.36m during the same period last year
- Cost improvement programmes have delivered £1,257 million of improvements in the first six months of the year
- Hospitals have delivered a £119 million
reduction in temporary staffing for the first six months of the financial year
However, pressure is high and likely to increase
Although there has been some success in reducing the number of delayed discharges from hospital beds, over the second quarter of the year there were around 168,000 delayed discharges.
This is substantially higher than the stated ambition of reducing delayed discharges to 3.5% by September 2017.
Over the same period, providers experienced a 3.4% increase in emergency admissions compared to the same period last year.
Both of these factors have contributed to high bed occupancy levels, which have affected providers’ ability to undertake planned elective care.
Despite providers of NHS care being under immense pressure, they have done better both for patients and for taxpayers this quarter.
The NHS is treating more patients than even before and yet more patients have been seen within four hours in A&E and within 18 weeks for planned care. In addition, NHS providers are delivering levels of efficiency and productivity that no other health system is managing to deliver.
Based on this quarter’s results, the combined end of year deficit for hospitals in England will be worse than planned. While we are working across the NHS to prepare for winter pressures, they may be difficult and will place the system under even greater pressure.
However, we will continue to work hard with providers and other NHS bodies to mitigate this risk as much as possible.
Jim Mackey, Chief Executive of NHS Improvement