Richard Barker, Interim National Director of Commissioning Operations and Information, said: “While it was pleasing to see improvements in Referral to Treatment Times and Diagnostic Waiting Times compared with last month, in A&E we really are now seeing the effects of the delayed flu spike which peaked in February and March this year compared with pre-Christmas last winter. This was compounded by social care-related delayed hospital discharges which are up by 40% compared with the same month last year. Emergency admissions growth remains moderate at 1.9% year to date, slightly below the 2.2% CCGs were funding.
“Despite these pressures, for the year as a whole more than nine out of ten patients have been admitted, treated or discharged in under four hours, while long trolley waits have halved compared with last year. The 18 week waiting time standard was passed this month, as were seven of the eight cancer standards, and waits for diagnostics tests are at their lowest level for over a year. This month is also the first we have begun to publish waiting time information for crucial mental health services, with positive signs of progress in this first snapshot.”
An NHS England spokesman said: “We continue to perform at an extremely high level on emergency response times to the most critical calls.
“There were 290,653 Category A ambulances arriving at the scene in February 2016, this equates to 10,023 per day- the highest daily average since records began and up 5.4% year-on-year. And more than nine million calls are now being handled by our ambulance services each year – up 6.1% on the previous year and double the growth in A&E workload.”
Background note: There were more than 792,000 emergency phone calls handled in February 2016 which equates to a daily average of 27,300 – significantly up on the 24,500 calls a day February 2015.
An NHS England spokesman said: “NHS 111 handled around 1.22 million calls in February 2016 – up 18.6% on February 2015 – with 79.7% of those answered within 60 seconds.
“The service continues to do a vital job in terms of helping patients to get the right care, at the right place and at the right time, and in protecting both A&E and ambulance services from unnecessary attendances and call outs. Of the calls NHS 111 triaged just 12.2% led to an ambulance being dispatched and just 8.2% were recommended to A&E.”
Background note: NHS 111 handled an average of 42,000 calls a day in February 2016, considerably higher than the 36,700 calls per day in February 2015. In previous years demand drops after December; however this year increased demand has continued in the winter months.
Delayed transfers of care
An NHS England spokesperson said: “It’s important patients who are well enough to leave hospital can do so at the earliest opportunity and are treated with dignity and compassion. These figures underline both the importance of joined-up care within the NHS, and the dependence of hospitals on well-functioning social care services – particularly for older people living at home.
“Some of the vanguards involved in the New Care Models programme are trialling new ways of working to address the issue of delayed transfers of care.”
Diagnostic waiting times
An NHS England spokesperson said: “The number of diagnostic tests performed every month has nearly doubled over the last nine years, while average waits have more than halved. ”
Referral to Treatment Times
An NHS England spokesman said: “In February more than nine out of ten patients were waiting less than 18 weeks to start consultant-led treatment. We continue to make strides in cutting long waits, with the number of patients waiting over a year slashed from over 5,000 recorded in March 2012 to being in the hundreds now.”
Background note: 92.1% of patients on an incomplete pathway were waiting less than 18 weeks to start consultant-led treatment, thus meeting the 92% standard.
More than 1.2 million patients started consultant-led treatment in February 2016. The figure for the last 12 months is up 4.3% on the preceding 12 month period.
Cancer waiting times
An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS is helping more people survive cancer than ever before and we’ve met and exceeded seven of the eight cancer waiting time standards. Swift diagnosis is key and these figures show that more people than ever are seeing a specialist within two weeks of visiting their GP.
“The Independent Cancer Taskforce has made a number of recommendations to support earlier diagnosis and better treatment, and we are working with partners across the health system to take these forward as quickly as possible.”
Background note: There were 145,615 urgent referrals for suspected cancer in February 2016, compared with 127,180 in February 2015. This represents an increase of 14.5%.
Mental Health – Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) Waiting Times
An NHS spokesperson said: “Publishing this data is an important step towards improving transparency on mental health. It shows many areas have made progress in implementing the requirements of the access and waiting time standard. Early data indicates 65.3% of patients started treatment within two weeks in February 2016. This is encouraging but we must recognise the data collection is experimental and more is required make this robust.”
Background note: The EIP access and waiting time standard requires that, from 1 April 2016, more than 50% of people experiencing First Episode Psychosis are treated with a NICE recommended package of care within two weeks of referral. This is the third time this data has been collected. The data for December 2015 and January 2016 are also published. The data reported in this submission covers the waiting time element of the standard.