The scale of England’s worst ever NHS crisis was revealed today by MailOnline analysis showing how worsening backlogs, skyrocketing emergency room wait times and bed blockers clog hospitals across the country.
Official figures show that at the end of September, a record 7.1 million people in the country queued for routine hospital treatments, such as hip and knee surgeries – the equivalent of one in eight people.
The figure includes more than 400,000 people who have been waiting for more than a year, often in pain.
And our review – breaking down NHS data by confidence level – shows that more than three in five patients waited at least 18 weeks for these surgeries in September among the country’s worst performing confidence.
Under the health service’s own rulebook, all patients requiring treatment have the right to be seen within 18 weeks.
The picture looks slightly better in England’s emergency rooms. Less than half of the patients were seen within four hours in four of the 169 trusts included in our analysis.
Experts believe that the crises in both ED and routine surgery are exacerbated by so-called “bed blockers,” which are medically fit for discharge but have nowhere else to go.
MailOnline figures showed these patients were taking up a third of all beds at North Bristol NHS Trust, England’s worst-affected trust, on 31 October.
Surgeons claimed the dire state of affairs will only get worse over the winter months, with staff shortages in nurses and beauticians making clearing the ever-growing backlog a nightmare.
Fiona Myint, vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, likened the staff’s struggles to Gareth Southgate taking the England football team to the World Cup without a full roster.
Problems caused by vacancies are expected to be exacerbated by planned nursing strikes over the Christmas period, after the Royal College of Nursing revealed on Wednesday that members had supported union action for the first time in its 106-year history.
Despite the concerns, NHS bosses boasted yesterday that they have reduced the number of patients who have been waiting in line for hospital treatment for 18 months, while dealing with a surge in Covid and flu patients, as well as pressure on emergency departments.
Official figures show that at the end of September, 7.1 million people in England were queuing for routine hospital treatments, such as hip and knee surgeries – the equivalent of one in eight people (red line). The figure includes more than 400,000 people who have been waiting for more than a year, often in pain (yellow bars)
Meanwhile, emergency room performance has deteriorated to new lows. More than 1,400 ED visitors had to wait more than 12 hours for care every day in October (yellow bars), while the lowest percentage ever recorded was seen within four hours – the NHS target (red line)
Nurses are paid up to £2,500 to cover services at struggling NHS trusts
Nurses are earning up to £2,500 to cover services at struggling hospital trusts, it was claimed today as a winter of NHS-wide chaos looms.
Temporary workers – including NHS salaried medics looking for additional work – are increasingly being called upon to plug gaps in rosters.
Figures from the BBC show that spending on such staff in all medical professions in England last year was £3bn, an increase of 20 per cent – or £600m – on the previous year.
NHS bosses are so understaffed that they have exceeded government wage limits in a desperate bid to attract temporary workers, including doctors, midwives and nurses.
Separate data from Labor also found that some distressed NHS trusts have spent as much as £2,500 to fill nursing services.
Some of the money spent on temporary staff inevitably goes to recruiting agencies, but the exact share of what nurses earn varies by company, their seniority and whether they are a specialist, such as a mental health nurse, for example.
It means nurses — thousands of whom will leave in a devastating deadlock with No10 overpay in the coming weeks — could make more money by taking services at other hospitals during the planned action.
MailOnline’s analysis uses figures from three separate NHS data sources on waiting lists, A&E delays and hospital bed occupancy.
About 191,781 people awaited surgery in September at the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, the largest of any trust in the country.
Only 42.8 percent of patients awaiting surgery were seen within the 18-week target, while a whopping 23,945 (12 percent) had been waiting more than a year.
The second largest waiting list was that of the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, where 159,785 were still seen, 61.5 percent waited more than 18 weeks and a fifth had not been seen for a year.
It was followed by Mid And South Essex NHS Foundation Trust (158,016), Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust (149,659) and University Hospitals Of Leicester NHS Trust (127,891).
According to NHS standards, at least 95 percent of patients entering the ED must be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, but this has not been achieved nationwide since 2015.
Latest data shows that less than half of patients within this target were seen at four hospital trusts: Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (44.9 per cent), Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (46.2 per cent), East Cheshire NHS Trust and the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (both 49.5 per cent).
Doctors called on the government to quickly invest in staff to reduce the backlog and get rid of the faltering emergency departments.
Miss Myint said: ‘As Jeremy Hunt is now in charge, we hope that as Chancellor he will remember his regret for not addressing the staffing issues sooner, and will fund a good NHS staffing plan.
“The NHS urgently needs a full squad to tackle the record waiting list. Without a funded NHS staffing plan, vacancies will only get worse, leaving staff under tremendous pressure and feeling burned out.
“The government has promised a personnel strategy before the end of the year. That can’t come soon enough as we enter the winter, with waiting lists for hospitals rising.’
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, said October was a ‘challenging month for staff’ amid a ‘triple epidemic’ of Covid, flu and the A&E crisis.
He said: ‘We have always said the overall waiting list would increase as more patients come forward, and with the pressure on staff set to increase over the winter months, the NHS has a plan – including a new fall service, 24/7. war rooms and extra beds and call handlers.
“The public can continue to play their part by getting their shots and using the NHS services in the usual way of calling 999 in an emergency and using 111 online for other health concerns.”
Ambulance performance statistics for October show that it took paramedics longer to get to category one, two and three reports since registration began in 2017. Ambulances took an average of 1 hour, one minute and 19 seconds to respond to category two calls (red bars), such as burns, epilepsy and stroke. This is more than three times as long as the 18-minute goal
Cancer care plummeted in September. Only 60.5 percent of patients started cancer treatment within two months of referral for chemotherapy or radiotherapy (red line). The figure is down from 61.9 percent a month earlier and is the lowest ever recorded in records dating back to October 2009. The NHS states that 85 patients should start treatment within this time frame