Responding to the latest NHS performance data, Dr Sarah Clarke, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said:
“It is clear that intense pressures continue to be felt throughout the healthcare system this winter after the record high demands seen throughout last year. Last month saw the highest number of attendances in emergency departments (EDs) for January on record. Patients continue to experience long waits, with over 177,000 patients waiting over 12 hours in EDs from their arrival until discharge, admission or transfer and over 54,000 patients waiting more than 12 hours in EDs following the decision to admit. These long waits are difficult for patients and their families, and highlight challenges with patient flow in hospitals with limited capacity and insufficient available beds. Despite 5,000 additional core beds added to hospitals in recent months, the bed occupancy rate for last month stood at 94%.
"Throughout, doctors have been working extremely hard to meet demand and we welcome that in December 2023 the waiting lists for treatment and diagnostic tests both decreased. But with patients overall waiting longer for treatment, and a median wait time for treatment reaching an all-time high of 15 weeks, it is clear that pressures remain. Longer waits for treatment could risk further health complications or deterioration, leading to increased demand for primary care and emergency services.
“Seasonal demands and the effects of the pandemic are putting increasing pressure on the entire healthcare service and worsening access for patients. Bold action needs to be taken by government across the health and social care system to have a positive lasting impact so patients can receive the right care when they need it. This includes urgently resuming negotiations with junior doctors to resolve the pay dispute and further industrial action.”