Warning NHS ‘critical’ as key targets are missed

Problems affecting A&E services are spreading to other areas to put the NHS in a “critical” position, experts warn today.


Early this month, figures showed waiting times in casualty units in England were at their worst for more than a decade.

Now performance in other key areas is said to have deteriorated to the worst level for years, leading to claims that the system is “creaking at the seams”.

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Health thinktank The King’s Fund said its latest quarterly monitoring report, based on analysis of official figures, revealed:

::The proportion of inpatients waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment rose to 12.5 per cent in November - the highest since the target was put in in 2008.

::The target that no more than five per cent of outpatients should wait longer than 18 weeks for treatment was breached in November - the first time it has been missed since 2008.

::Between July and September, waiting times for cancer treatment “continued to worsen” with 83.5 per cent of patients receiving treatment within 62 days of urgent referral from their GP - the lowest proportion since the current target was introduced.

::The number of cancelled operations from November to January was up by a third on the same period the previous year.

John Appleby, chief economist at The King’s Fund, said: “Taken together, the findings from this quarter’s report show that services are stretched to the limit.

“With financial problems also endemic among hospitals and staff morale a significant cause for concern, the situation is now critical.”

Shadow health minister Jamie Reed said: “The A&E crisis is intensifying and spreading to other parts of the NHS. People are having their operations cancelled because A&E needs more and more beds - this helps to explain why waiting lists are at a six-year high.”

The Department of Healthsaid: “The NHS is busier than ever which is why we have given almost £1 billion this year for almost 800 more doctors, 4,700 more nurses, 6,400 more beds and treatment for an extra 100,000 patients.”