NHS 'at breaking point' as hospitals continue to miss targets in summer

NHS leaders have warned the health service is at breaking point, as official data showed A&E waiting time targets for England have been missed every month for two years.

Official data published on Thursday showed the NHS last met its target of 95% of patients spending four hours or less in A&E in July 2015.

Meanwhile, 3.83m patients are now waiting for planned care, according to referral-to-treatment statistics - a figure thought to rise beyond 4m once missing data are factored in. More than 383,000 patients have been waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'Longer waiting times and cancellations have a profound impact on patients' experience of the NHS, affecting the care they receive and leaving frontline staff working under increasingly difficult conditions.

‘In addition to the missed A&E targets, the number of people waiting for planned operations is soaring. The government is now routinely missing its own targets across the health system - it hasn’t met its A&E target for two years and cancer care is being compromised. The NHS is clearly at breaking point, yet the government doesn’t appear to have an answer to this crisis.'

NHS crisis

The BMA chair warned that investment in the health service had failed to keep pace with rising demand. ‘To ensure the NHS is equipped to deliver the best care for patients, the government needs to look at the long-term funding, capacity and recruitment issues facing the system as a whole, only then can we get to grips with the pressures the NHS faces year in, year out,’ Dr Nagpaul warned.

Nuffield Trust chief economist John Appleby said: ‘These figures show that the NHS continues to be systematically unable to meet its main targets, with over 4m patients likely to be on the waiting list for planned care - now at its longest since the end of 2007.

'For the second year in a row, even the summer respite in A&E has not led to hospitals being able to meet their four hour target, with just 90.3% of people being treated in four hours compared to the expected 95%. The troublingly high rate of patients being held up leaving hospital is showing little sign of coming back under control, with delayed days at their highest ever level for the month of June.

‘This puts the NHS on the back foot as we approach winter, with problems both at the "front door" of A&E departments and at the "back door", as hospitals struggle to send people home or onto further care.’

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey warned last month that the NHS faced a far worse winter crisis this year unless soaring GP indemnity costs were addressed.

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