NHS performance summary: January-February 2021

Our monthly round-up of the latest NHS performance data.

Latest data

Published: 11/03/2021

Today, NHS England and NHS Digital published the latest data on key activity and performance measures for January and February of this year. Urgent and Emergency Care Daily Situation Reports were also published for the first week of March, giving a more up-to-date analysis of how the NHS is coping this winter. Here we show some of these statistics and how they compare with previous trends.

Urgent care

  • In February 2021, total A&E attendances fell to under 1.3 million – 35% lower than in February 2020. This follows a decrease to 916,581 in April 2020 and a subsequent increase to just over 1.7 million in August 2020. 903,644 attendances in February were to major (type 1) A&E departments.
  • There were 322,272 emergency admissions via A&E in February 2021 – 16% lower than in February 2020. Emergency admissions via A&E have generally been increasing year-on-year, but fell dramatically in April 2020 to 257,928.
  • In February 2021, 16% of people attending A&E spent more than four hours from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge, approximately the same as in February 2020.
  • 57,169 patients spent more than four hours waiting on a trolley from a decision to admit to admission in February 2021 – 27% lower than in February 2020. 1,038 people had a trolley wait of over 12 hours in February 2021.
  • There were over 1.3 million calls made to NHS 111 in February 2021, 18% lower than in February 2020. For the past six consecutive months, there have been more calls made to NHS 111 than A&E attendances.

For more information, see our A&E waiting times indicator.

Ambulance handover delays

  • In Week 9 of 2021 (commencing 1 March), 5,575 ambulances experienced a handover delay of over 30 minutes, 54% lower than in Week 9 of 2020. The number of ambulances arriving at A&E was 8% lower in Week 9 of 2021 than Week 9 of 2020.

Bed occupancy

  • General and acute bed occupancy was 84% in Week 9 of 2021. There was an average of 89,396 general and acute beds available each day – 8% fewer than in Week 9 of 2020.
  • In Week 9 of 2021, the average number of adult critical care beds available each day was 5,078 – 38% higher than in Week 9 of 2020.
  • 72% of available adult critical care beds were occupied in Week 9 of 2021. Due to increased demand for critical care beds, additional beds have been opened in the winter of 2020/21. Relative to the number of available adult critical care beds in Week 9 of 2020, 100% of beds were occupied in Week 9 of 2021.

Treatment and diagnostic test activity and waiting times

  • The total number of people waiting to start consultant-led elective treatment increased to over 4.6 million in January 2021 (reported waiting list plus the estimate of missing data), the highest level since records began. This follows a previous fall to 3.9 million in May 2020.
  • The number of people waiting over 52 weeks to start consultant-led elective treatment increased to 304,044 in January 2021, the highest level since January 2008.
  • In January 2021, one third (34%) of people waiting to start elective treatment had been waiting over 18 weeks – double the percentage waiting over 18 weeks in January 2020. The 18-week target has not been met for over four and a half years.
  • The number of first outpatient attendances for general and acute specialties decreased to under 1.5 million in January 2021, following a fall to 783,406 in April 2020 and subsequent increase to almost 1.8 million in November 2020.
  • There were 704,097 GP referrals to general and acute specialties in January 2021 – almost three times the low of 257,850 in April 2020 but 37% lower than in January 2020.
  • One third (33%) of patients had been waiting over six weeks for a diagnostic test in January 2021. The diagnostic waiting time target has not been met for over seven years.
  • For fifteen common diagnostic tests, including non-obstetric ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT), there were just over 1.6 million tests carried out in January 2021. This follows a previous fall to 612,232 in April 2020 and subsequent increase to over 1.8 million in October 2020.

For more information, see our treatment waiting times and diagnostic test waiting times indicators.

Cancer waiting times

  • 171,231 patients had a first consultant appointment for suspected cancer in January 2021 following an urgent GP referral – 11% lower than in January 2020. This follows a substantial drop to less than 80,000 first consultant appointments in April 2020.
  • In January 2021, 29% of patients waited longer than two months to start their first treatment following an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer – the worst performance for any January since records began. The 62-day cancer target has not been met for over five years.
  • The percentage of patients who waited longer than two months to start their first treatment for cancer following a referral from a national screening service increased to 20% in January 2021, following the recent worsening to 87% in June 2020. The waiting time target has not been met for over two and a half years.
  • 1,459 people started a first treatment for cancer in January 2021 following a referral from a national screening service – 29% lower than in January 2020.

For more information, see our cancer waiting time targets indicator.

 

 

About this data

During this unprecedented time for the health service, QualityWatch continues to provide independent scrutiny of the health and social care system as far as possible. The most recent data published today reflects changes in access and service use as a result of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. In light of these shifts in activity, we have added new charts and changed the presentation of some of our usual charts, to aid interpretation. It is also worth noting that NHS England have suspended data collection for 2020/21 for some of their performance statistics, including delayed transfers of care.

In March 2019, the Clinically-Led Review of NHS Access Standards Interim Report was released, proposing some significant changes to many of the targets reported on here. A six-month Progress Report from the NHS Medical Director was also published in October 2019. Field testing of the proposed new standards began in 2019 and NHS England is currently consulting on the recommendations for urgent and emergency care.

For urgent and emergency care, the field test sites have not been submitting four-hour performance data since May 2019. The time series presented here excludes the field testing sites and so is comparable across months and years. For elective care, performance of the field test sites will continue to be included in the national time series, so the data is fully comparable over time.

For interactive charts showing the quality of health and social care over time, please refer to our 200+ indicators.

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