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NHS on ‘collision course’ for worst-ever winter, says BMA

The BMA has urged the Government to step in before the NHS’ anticipated ‘collision course’ for its worst-ever winter has the chance to manifest. 

New NHS performance stats disclosed the health service’s worst since records began, with A&E waits in September at their lowest outside winter since 2010. 

The month saw 2,143,093 attendees in A&E, an increase of 6.9% on the same period last year. Of these, attendances at type 1 A&E departments were 5.8% higher when compared with September 2018, a statistic that rose to 9.2% at type 3 departments.

There were also 529,903 emergency admissions during September, 3.8% higher than in September 2018. 

Additionally, the target of 95% of patients being seen within four hours was missed again. Established in January 2004, it was last achieved in July 2015. Instead, just 85.4% of patients across all A&E departments were seen within this timeframe in September, in contrast to 86.3% the month prior, and 89.1% in September 2018. 

The BMA’s council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The NHS has just experienced its worst-ever summer – this is incredibly alarming and should be taken as a serious warning sign of the chaos that is likely to unfold in the NHS this coming winter.

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‘With summer performance now as bad as recent winters, we have reached a point of year-round crisis and the Government cannot continue to let this happen.

‘September A&E waits were the worst performance record outside of winter since 2010 and trolley waits and referrals to treatment are worse than we have seen in the last decade.

‘Patient care is suffering, NHS staff working tirelessly around the clock are suffering, and with Brexit on the horizon and early indicators of an extremely cold winter, we are on a collision course for what is likely to be the worst winter ever.

‘This is a serious plea – we need to see investment across the board including community and social care, and resources such as more beds, reaching the frontline now.’

Earlier this year, NHS England’s interim report on access standards noted the ‘well-documented issues’ with the four-hour benchmark, divulging that ‘alternatives are worth exploring’.

The healthcare service’s CEO Simon Stevens has also referenced ‘faster standards’ that could serve as replacements.