Nuffield Trust: Yet worse to come as Covid-19 pressure builds for health services in the new year

Sarah Scobie responds to the latest monthly performance figures and weekly sit rep data from NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Press release

Published: 14/01/2021

Responding to the latest monthly performance figures and weekly sit rep data from NHS England and NHS Improvement, Nuffield Trust Deputy Director of Research Sarah Scobie said:

"The NHS is working in a time unlike anything in its history. The reports from intensive care units and hospitals are sobering with staff under intolerable strain from this deadly wave of the pandemic.

"In the most up to date weekly winter reporting from the NHS, we see a clear bottleneck in patients coming into hospitals through ambulance services. In the week of January 1st, there were over five and half thousand delays of over an hour to hand over to hospitals, leading to concerning images of ambulances queuing down streets and outside of emergency departments. This is the largest number of these waits since this data has been published. Those delays are despite the tremendous efforts that staff have made to boost desperately needed critical care facilities and to speed up discharging patients from hospital where appropriate.

"Even ahead of this new year pressure, we could see patient waits bubbling up with thousands of patients forced to wait 12 hours before a bed could be made available, this is despite lower than usual A&E attendances. We know the strain has accelerated rapidly following the looser restrictions in the festive period.

"We know there is yet worse to come. Hospitals have substantially more Covid-19 patients in hospital than the first wave's peak (almost 50% more), with even urgent cancer operations postponed in the hardest-hit areas. If we do not begin to see case numbers tumble there is a risk our health service could become a national Covid service for weeks to come."

Notes to editors

  • The Nuffield Trust is an independent health think tank. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate.
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