Figures showing that almost 2,000 seriously-ill patients were left waiting for at least an hour to be cared for by ambulance staff before being handed over to hospital professionals during Christmas week can be taken in two ways.
On the one hand, the figure is over 60 per cent lower than in the same week in 2017 – indicating the NHS has been getting some grip on tackling this distressing problem.
But on the other, as the Royal College of Nursing rightly points out, the fact that A&E departments and wards are so overcrowded before cold weather hits in earnest this winter is deeply concerning and does not bode well for the next few months ahead – particularly if flu and norovirus rates rise.
The pressures on the NHS, particularly at this time of year, are well-documented.
But as well as health bosses and politicians, the general public also has an important role to play in keeping demand to the minimum level possible.
Through people ensuring they get their flu jab and taking simple steps like keeping their homes warm, the risk of illness can be reduced. On the occasions where people do fall sick, services like NHS 111 and high street pharmacists can be used where it is appropriate.
Individuals taking such measures will certainly not solve all the challenges facing the NHS during the winter months, but collectively they can undoubtedly make a difference and ensure those most in need of treatment can receive it more promptly rather than having to face the indignity of waiting in an ambulance or a hospital corridor to be seen.