NHS failing to hit key targets on A&E and patient referrals


The NHS is under increasing pressure and failing to hit key targets relating to A&E, tests for illnesses and referring patients for treatment.

The latest performance statistics for December show a worsening across several areas, with one missed target being for people to be treated within 18 weeks.

It is the first time the 18-week target - which refers to people receiving treatment within 18 weeks of being referred by a GP or other health professional - has been missed since it was introduced in April 2012.

In December, 91.8% of people were treated within 18 weeks against the 92% target.

Meanwhile, 91% of patients were admitted, transferred or discharged from A&E within four hours of arrival - below the 95% standard.

This is the second lowest on record. The lowest was December 2014 (89.9%).

On delayed transfers of care - which occur when patients are fit to leave hospital but services such as social care are not in place to look after them - there were 154,060 days of delays in December, the second highest on record.

Ambulance targets, which were missed for most of 2015, were also missed in December.

Some 72.6% of the most serious Red 1 calls - where patients are not breathing or do not have a pulse - were responded to within eight minutes against a 75% target.

About 67.2% of Red 2 calls - still serious, such as strokes or fits - were responded to within eight minutes, far below the 75% target.

On diagnostic tests such as endoscopy, just over 2% of patients had been waiting six weeks or longer from referral, meaning the target of 1% was missed.

It has not been met since November 2013.

Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: "Doctors in the NHS are working incredibly hard and surgeons delivered a record number of operations during 2015.

"It is therefore particularly disappointing that the NHS has now missed its waiting times target. In surgery, performance has been particularly affected for operations such as hip and knee replacements.

"Delayed treatment is extremely distressing to all patients. It is welcome that the Government has promised extra money in the comprehensive spending review but we also need a long-term, sustainable plan to address the increasing numbers of patients needing surgery.

'We are also increasingly concerned by the rising number of patients being delayed from leaving hospital to go home or alternative care environments.

"This not only places the patient at greater safety risk, such as falls, or immobility which can lead to infection, but also denies much-needed hospital beds to others. The increasing delays are, it seems, partly due to the consequences of a reduction in spending on social care. We urgently need a political consensus on the funding of social care."