NHS on track for busiest summer on record

Emergency departments experienced their second busiest July ever last month, with new data published today showing 2.1 million attendances.

The new data suggests this summer is currently on track to be the busiest ever for hardworking NHS staff with 4.42 million attendances in A&E over June and July – 42,500 more than the previous high (4.37 million in 2022).

Ambulances services faced their busiest month since May 2022, with 707,000 incidents last month.

The NHS experienced another record month for cancer checks with over 261,000 urgent referrals in June and a near-record number of people starting treatment for cancer (29,479).

A record number of tests and checks were carried out for the month of June (2.24 million), up 16% on the same month pre-pandemic (1.9 million).

NHS staff continue to make progress on the longest waits for patients with the number of people waiting more than a year dropping in June, with year long waits reducing by almost 2,000 compared to May.

As part of efforts to reduce long waits as part of the Elective Recovery Plan, the NHS has launched an easy-to-use tool which will allow staff to view and add available treatment slots in hospitals across the country, including independent sector capacity.

Progress on the covid backlog came amid further strike action, with three days of junior doctor strikes in June leading to 106,120 postponed elective appointments and procedures. To date, around 778,000 hospital appointments across the NHS have been rescheduled due to strike action.

Junior doctors begin their next round of action on Friday at 7am with significant disruption expected with potentially thousands more appointments and procedures set to be postponed.

The publication of the data comes as the NHS prepares to issue guidance for the rollout of flu and covid vaccines for over 65s and the clinically vulnerable as part of plans to prepare for winter, which include care traffic control centres to speed up discharge as well as additional beds and ambulance hours.

Virtual ward capacity has also increased, with 9,713 virtual ward beds (as of 28 July), with the NHS well on track to meet its goal of 10,000 beds by the end of September.

Professor Julian Redhead, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Urgent and Emergency Care, said: “Today’s data is a reminder of the significant pressure on staff with this summer currently on trajectory to be the busiest in NHS history, all while industrial action continues to disrupt services.

“Despite this, hard-working staff are delivering improvements in urgent and emergency care waiting times while also tackling the backlog by doing more tests and checks than any July on record and seeing record numbers of people with suspected cancer.

“While tomorrow the NHS will see a fifth round of junior doctor strike action with thousands of appointments and procedures likely to be postponed, the NHS will need to prioritise emergency care once again.

“So please continue to use 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency and 111 online for any other health concerns, while GPs and pharmacies are also unaffected by strikes.”