Pressure on NHS services remains high

Frontline NHS pressures are not letting up as winter ends, with huge demand on hospital services last week – as GPs delivered record numbers of annual appointments.

The latest weekly data continues to show a reduction in flu cases in hospital, however there were still on average 1,333 patients in a ward bed with flu each day last week. While this was down by just under a half when compared to the current peak for this winter of 2,487 flu cases per day (week ending 4 February 2024), it was still more than 3 times higher compared to the same week last year (430 for week ending 5 March 2023).

The number of patients with norovirus remained the same as last week, with an average of 470 patients with the virus in hospital every day. The latest data also shows there were 1,862 beds occupied by patients with Covid-19.

There was a significant increase in the number of calls answered by NHS 111 last week compared to the same period last year, up a fifth from 297,586 to 363,480. Despite higher demand, 111 call handlers answered more than two thirds (67.4%) of calls within a minute, up from 48.6% last year.

And new data shows GPs seeing record numbers of patients, with 53 million more appointments – excluding those for Covid vaccinations – delivered last year, compared to before the pandemic.

New monthly NHS data published today [7 March] shows more than 360 million appointments – excluding those for Covid vaccinations – were delivered by GP practices and primary care networks in the last 12 months (February 2023 to January 2024).  The latest statistics show in January 2024, 32.5 million appointments were delivered, up one fifth compared to the previous month.

Today’s data also shows a record 367,872 home visits were made by NHS staff in January 2024, up by more than 100,000 compared to the same period pre-pandemic.  And almost 7 in 10 (67%) GP appointments were delivered face-to-face in January. Every GP practice must offer face-to-face appointments as well as telephone and online consultations, with some patients choosing remote appointments where it is clinically appropriate.

Around 19 in 20 (94.5%) adult general and acute beds were occupied last week, with 13,375 beds taken up by patients medically fit for discharge.

Despite the NHS having 1,716 more adult beds in place compared to the same week last year, there were an extra 598 occupied each day.

There were 92,763 total ambulance handovers to hospital, up 16% on 79,735 last year. Despite this additional demand, there were fewer hours lost to handover delays last week compared to the same time last year (13,881 versus 15,360).

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director said: “This winter has been incredibly busy and challenging for the NHS with staff juggling high demand for services, pressure caused by flu, Covid and norovirus, high bed occupancy and periods of industrial action.

“While signs that some of the seasonal pressures are easing, this latest data shows we are still experiencing significant demand going into spring with hundreds more patients in hospital and tens of thousands more calls to 111 when compared to last year but thanks to the measures in our urgent and emergency care recovery plan, we saw fewer hours lost to handover delays, more 111 calls answered within a minute and over 1,700 more hospital beds in place.

“It is of course not just NHS hospitals that are busy, GP teams are delivering millions of appointments every day for patients – new data published today shows that GPs delivered 360 million appointments in the last year – 53 million more annually than before the pandemic.

“From upgrading telephone systems to boosting the workforce, the NHS published a plan last year to further improve patient access to GP services”.

Primary Care Minister, Andrea Leadsom said: “We are continuing to deliver faster, simpler, fairer access to primary care for patients. Today’s data demonstrates that we are continuing to expand on the number of GP appointments delivered each month, a significant increase compared to this time last year.

“On top of this, we have also met our target of 50 million additional general practice appointments several months ahead of schedule. Our GPs continue to provide world class care to all patients who come through their doors, and I am grateful to all staff who go above and beyond to support those who need it.

“We have introduced the first ever Long Term Workforce Plan for the NHS, which will help us transform GP services nationwide, providing 6,000 more GP training places a year by 2031. We are also increasing access through our Primary Care Recovery Plan, including through Pharmacy First, which will improve healthcare access for people across the country and free up 10 million GP appointments a year”.


View the latest GP appointment data

View the weekly winter sit rep data.