Handover delays fall despite increase in patients being taken to A&E by ambulance

Ambulance waits outside A&E reduced despite thousands more people being taken to hospital last week and continued pressures across the NHS, new figures show today.

The weekly winter data, published today, shows ambulances transported 77,937 patients to A&Es across the country last week, up from 72,009 the week before.

Despite the increase in patients, fewer hours were lost to delays outside hospitals last week (10,170) compared to the previous seven days (13,921).

The figures also show more people called NHS 111 last week, with 316,394 calls answered (up from 301,045 the week before).

While the number of patients remaining in hospital who no longer need to be there has decreased slightly from the week before (from 14,036 to 13,566), bed occupancy remains high, with more than 19 in 20 beds occupied across adult general and acute hospital wards (95.1%).

The latest figures show the number of patients in hospital with flu continues to fall, down to 2,034 (of which 1,893 patients were in general and acute beds and 141 in critical care beds). This is down from a peak of 5,441 in the week ending 1 January.

However, norovirus cases are up, with 371 adult beds occupied by patients with diarrhoea and vomiting/norovirus-like symptoms last week – twice as many as this time last year – and up from 344 in the week before.

Professor Julian Redhead, national clinical director for urgent and emergency care, said: “These new figures show that while there have been improvements in ambulance handovers and fewer flu patients in hospital, the NHS remains under significant pressure – last week saw more people being taken to A&E by ambulance, bed occupancy is still constrained, and illnesses like flu and norovirus are still a very real concern.

“The NHS has done extensive preparation for this winter, including rolling out extra beds, a national falls services and nationwide 24/7 control centres to track and manage demand, and NHS staff are working flat-out to continue to provide the best care for our patients in the face of ongoing pressures.

“The public can also help us by using the most appropriate services for their condition – it is vital people continue to use 999 in an emergency, otherwise 111 online – and protecting themselves and their loved ones by getting their flu vaccination, and Covid jabs if eligible”.

Yesterday, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that, thanks to the success of the NHS covid vaccination programme, the offer of an initial booster dose for all 16 to 49-year-olds who are not considered at risk should end when the current autumn campaign ends, which will be on Sunday 12 February. Anyone yet to come forward for their covid booster is being urged to do so before the end of the campaign.

The NHS will continue to operate a smaller scale vaccine offer from mid-February onwards to ensure those eligible for first and second doses can still get their jabs, and the JCVI will set out further guidance on who will be eligible for covid vaccines in future phases of the programme, such as any spring campaign as well as next autumn in due course.