Ambulance response times improve in the capital despite ongoing winter pressures

Patients in London received faster ambulance response times last month compared to December 2022 despite ongoing winter pressures and industrial action continuing to impact the NHS.

Ambulance response times in all four categories improved in January, with Category 2 responses nearly an hour faster than December with an average response time of 29 minutes 30 seconds (down from one hour 23 minutes), and Category 1 responses took an average of seven minutes 44 seconds (down from just over 10 and a half minutes in December).

Bed occupancy remained high in January, as the NHS faced continued problems discharging people when they are ready, in part due to increased pressures in social care. The monthly figures show that on average just over half (54%) of patients ready for discharge were discharged, leading to an average of 1,492 patients spending more time in hospital than needed each day.

The NHS worked hard to ensure as little disruption for patients as possible during strikes in December, when just over 5,400 (5,448) elective procedures and appointments had to be rescheduled across the three days of industrial action held. January figures show just over 5,000 (5,038) were rescheduled across five days of strike action.

Newly published data from industrial action held earlier last week (February 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th), shows more than 10,000 elective (10,372) procedures and appointments were rescheduled.

While this inevitably had a knock-on effect on routine care and waiting lists, the number of people waiting for diagnostic tests went down (211,272 in December, from 226,972 in November), and those waiting more than a year for elective treatment increased very slightly (30,087 from 29,928).

Despite these pressures, NHS staff across the capital are continuing to find new and innovative ways to treat patients. Surgeons at King George Hospital unveiled the country’s first robotic colonoscopy machine earlier this month. Patients at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) will benefit from a painless and non-invasive procedure compared to a traditional colonoscopy and will not require any sedation meaning faster recovery.

Matthew Trainer, Chief Executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust said:

“This is a ground-breaking development that has the potential to transform endoscopy services across the country. It’s yet another example of the innovative work we’re doing at our surgical hub where we have a relentless focus on reducing waiting times for patients.”

Meanwhile the surgical team at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton have been performing around 600 life-improving operations a month at their dedicated surgical hub which is ringfenced to perform high volume, low complexity cases. Since opening in June 2021, the team have carried out more than 7,000 operations.

Helen Pettersen, Interim Regional Director for the NHS in London said:

“Today’s figures show that despite ongoing pressures across the health service in London, including industrial action, our amazing NHS staff are continuing to work flat-out to deliver the best care for patients, with ambulance response times improving last month as the NHS continues to progress its winter plan.

“It’s inspiring to see what our staff can achieve despite the pressures, constantly finding new ways to improve the patient experience as we see more patients as day cases so they can return home to recover the same day as their surgery.”

“We know it is frustrating for those who are still facing long waits for planned care and it is important to make sure people are managing their health as best as possible during these times by keeping in contact with their GP and using NHS 111 online for any health concerns or advice and of course, calling 999 in any life-threatening emergency.”