Busiest November ever as new figures show pressures on NHS staff

NHS staff answered the highest number of 999 calls for any November on record, an average of around one every three seconds, new figures revealed today.

Last month was also the second busiest November on record for A&E with more than two million patients seen at emergency departments and urgent treatment centres. That was up by half a million on the same time last year.

Demand for NHS 111 services also remained high, with almost 1.4 million calls answered during November, the latest available figures show.

And hardworking NHS staff are continuing to make progress on elective activity with almost 150,000 more people starting elective treatment in October compared to the same month last year.

Patients on the waiting list are prioritised based on their need and at the end of October, were waiting an average of 12 weeks to begin treatment, compared to a high of 19.6 weeks on average in July last year.

The data comes as cases of Omicron increase throughout the country, and the NHS is urging the public to get their booster when invited.

New weekly data, published for the first time this winter, also shows that, on average, there were 10,500 patients each day last week who no longer needed to be in hospital but were not discharged that day, with pressures outside hospitals also high.

This means that more than one in 10 beds were occupied by patients who were medically fit to leave.

NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “These figures show that NHS staff are continuing to address the COVID backlog in the face of sustained pressure on urgent and emergency care.

“As we head into a very challenging winter, we are working with partners in social care to get as many patients who are fit to do so home for Christmas, which is right for them and their families as well as freeing up beds.

“There is much we do not know about Omicron but experts advise that vaccines will still help in our fight against the virus.

“Thanks to the efforts of staff and volunteers the NHS COVID vaccination programme has delivered more than 100 million jabs, so do come forward when it is your turn”.

In October, staff performed more than 1.9 million diagnostic tests – over 120,000 more than in October 2020 – and the average waiting time for one of the key checks, including MRI scans and endoscopies, now stands at 3.1 weeks, down from a peak of 8.6 weeks in May 2020.

Cancer care continues to be at pre pandemic levels with more than 225,000 urgent referrals and over 25,000 people starting treatment in September.

This is on top of efforts to accelerate the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme in line with new JCVI guidance with the aim to offer all adults the chance to book their booster jab by the end of January next year.

So far, over 100 million doses of the vaccine have been administered since the NHS made history in December 2020, when Margaret Keenan became the first person to receive a COVID jab outside of clinical trials.

More than 39 million people have had two doses of the life-saving jab and more than 18 million boosters have been delivered so far.


  • More than 879,000 calls to 999 were answered in November. The previous high for November was 794,516.
  • In the week ending 5 December, the NHS had on average 90k adult general and acute beds open. On average over the week, 10,500 were occupied by patients fit to be discharged each day. The 10,500 is from a smaller subset of data, so the true number may actually be higher.