The NHS waiting list has fallen for the first time since the start of the pandemic despite hospitals across the east of England dealing with the highest ever number of A&E attendances last month, new figures show.
As the NHS continues to deliver on the most ambitious catch-up programme in its history, a record number of patients’ tests and checks were delivered in November, with more than 230,000 tests across the east of England.
Record numbers of people were also checked and started treatment for cancer during November 2022, with more than nine in 10 people starting within a month.
Last week, the NHS has written to trusts asking them to book in all remaining patients currently waiting more than 18 months for their appointment or treatment by the end of March.
This progress is set against a backdrop of continuing, significant demand for NHS services, with December 2022 reaching record numbers of ambulance calls and A&E attendances.
In the east of England, there were 232,000 A&E attendances in December, over 40,000 more than December 2021. Regionally, there were more than 110,000 emergency 999 calls for ambulances last month, compared to around 87,000 for December 2021.
NHS staff have also contended with significant levels of respiratory illness with more than 100 times the number of hospital beds taken up by patients with flu compared to winter 2021.
Bed occupancy was high throughout December, with more than nine in 10 beds occupied and an average of 1,171 beds a day taken up by patients medically fit for discharge in the east.
The NHS has put in extensive plans to deal with additional demand for remaining winter months, with vaccinations, community falls services, respiratory hubs, more beds, and additional call handlers.
NHS East of England Medical Director, Dr Eddie Morris, said:
“NHS staff across our region are currently facing record demand, in both A&E attendances and emergency call-outs. All the while, they have delivered the most diagnostic tests and cancer treatments for a one-month period.
“Staff are working incredibly hard and their innovation is helping to bring down the Covid backlog in elective care, while they also support those who require urgent and emergency care.
“Communities across the east can support us by using the best services for their care – using 999 in an emergency and 111 online for other healthcare needs. If eligible, people should also come forward for vaccinations.”
The health service continues to use the latest technology to ease demand on hospitals, including virtual ward beds which allow for people to receive specialist care from the comfort of their own homes.
Anyone needing healthcare advice is asked to use NHS 111 online in the first instance and call 999 in an emergency as usual.