GPs face knock-on impact as hospitals remain under extreme pressure

GPs face continuing knock-on pressure on workload as hospitals continue to struggle this winter, the latest official data from NHS England reveal.

Pressure on hospital beds remained extreme in the week to 14 January, with 94.9% of beds full on average across hospital trusts in England - virtually unchanged from the 95% rate for the previous week.

This level of bed occupancy is far in excess of the 85% target that experts consider safe, and leaves hospitals likely to experience bed shortages or crisis situations, according to research.

Numbers of patients facing long waits to be transferred from an ambulance to an A&E department fell sharply in the second week of January. Although 12,600 patients faced waits of more than 30 minutes and 2,600 waited more than an hour, these figures fell from over 16,000 and over 5,000 respectively a week earlier - suggesting that pressure has eased to an extent.

Winter pressure

GP leaders have warned that practices are operating at full capacity and that the cancellation of elective care throughout January has left primary care facing additional visits from patients in pain or concerned about delayed treatment.

Flu statistics due later on Thursday will reveal whether the emerging flu crisis suggested by last week's data is continuing to pile even further pressure on general practice.

An NHS England spokesman said: 'Raised levels of flu and norovirus continue to put pressure on busy A&Es and other frontline services but today's figures show pressures abating somewhat compared to the prior week, and with hospitals generally continuing to cope.'

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