NHS hospitals provided more care, more efficiently, while delivering improved finances in last quarter

NHS hospitals in England provided more urgent treatment and routine operations than ever before last year.

Despite the pressure of demand, the provider sector continued to improve quality and achieved one of the best financial performances in recent years.

Statistics on the performance of the NHS published today show Emergency Departments (EDs) treated or discharged 5.3 million patients within four hours of arrival between January and March — 314,594 more than last year.

6.2 million patients attended ED in the first quarter of the year, almost 362,000 more than the same time last year. The number of people requiring elective surgery increased by almost 400,000 patients.

Despite these pressures, the NHS delivered its first winter year-on-year improvement on ED performance in five years.

The report also found NHS providers reduced their deficits by almost £400 million in 2018/19 compared to the previous year, helping the wider NHS to balance its books.

‘The NHS’ 1.1 million staff delivered care to more patients within national standards, improved quality, and stepped up efficiency to deliver one of the best financial performances in the last five years.

‘The NHS Long Term Plan will build on this achievement by giving staff the support they need to secure the future sustainability of the NHS by managing the needs of an ageing and frail population.’

Ian Dalton, Chief Executive, NHS Improvement

The performance of the NHS provider sector also reveals more cancer patients than ever before were treated within 62 days of an urgent referral from a GP surgery in 2018/19.

Hospitals also made £3.2 billion of efficiency savings over the last year. NHS productivity increased by an implied 2.3% over the past year – higher than productivity improvements of 1.2% last year.

Providers also spent less on temporary agency staff, both overall and as a proportion of workforce spend (4.4% in quarter 4, relative to 4.7% last year).

The report also found:

  • the number of patients that received elective surgery within 18 weeks during 2018/19 was a record high
  • the report warns that pressure still remains on hospital capital budgets, with rising levels of backlog maintenance
  • the number of staff vacancies has reduced by 4,600 compared to the previous quarter. NHS trusts now have 96,000 vacancies