The NHS has buckled under the unprecedented demand triggered by the heatwave this summer, official statistics confirm.
Waiting lists already at a 10-year high rose once again in June in England, and crucial cancer targets were missed for the 30th month running.
And July was the busiest month ever recorded in A&E, as temperatures soared to 34°C (93.2°F) and the UK was hotter than Miami.
The figures come after experts have repeatedly warned hospitals are experiencing a ‘summer crisis’ due to record-breaking temperatures.
Frustrated medics today slammed the damning data, warning the NHS is running at ‘boiling point’ all year round – not just in the winter.
Health leaders admitted the heatwave has been detrimental to the NHS but argued it should have been able to cope, if it was resourced properly.
Questions are beginning to emerge over whether the health service will be ready for winter, as it heads towards the colder months with ‘one arm tied behind its back’.
Figures released by NHS England today showed:
- July was the busiest month ever recorded in A&E, with 2,176,022 people attending casualty units during the month
- Some 4,113,849 million patients in June were waiting to start treatment – the highest total since August 2007
- More than 3,500 patients in England were waiting more than a year for treatment in June – 13 per cent higher than in May
- Urgent referrals for cancer treatment have now been breached for 30 months in a row as just 79.2 per cent of patients were seen within 62 days
July was the busiest month ever recorded in A&E, as temperatures soared to 34°C (93.2°F) and the UK was hotter than Miami (stock)
‘Running at boiling point’
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the NHS is ‘running at boiling point all year round’.
He added: ‘The hot weather will have had an impact with more patients with respiratory conditions, heatstroke and dehydration.
‘The summer has provided no respite for NHS staff, who are now working flat out to meet unsustainable levels of demand both in the summer and the winter.
‘The pressures are felt across hospital, community, mental health and ambulance services, not just A&E.
‘This level of demand and performance raises serious concerns about the NHS’ position going into the winter.’
Waiting times for treatment
Under the NHS Constitution, patients have a right to undergo a procedure within 18 weeks of being referred by their consultant.
But figures for June show only 87.8 per cent of patients were seen within the strict timeframe – well below the Government’s 92 per cent target.
And 3,517 patients had been forced to endure year-long waits for treatment in June – the highest total since April 2012.
In comparison, just 1,542 patients – less than half – had waited for at least 12 months during the same period last year.
Health leaders admitted the heatwave has been detrimental to the NHS but argued it should have been able to cope, if it was resourced properly
What’s it like in A&E?
A&E performance data showed casualty units had finally started to recovery in June, following the unprecedented winter pressure.
Only 33,754 patients were left languishing in waiting rooms and corridors for more than four hours – the lowest total since November 2015.
But the total rose by around 23 per cent in July, with 41,553 patients forced to wait around for 240 minutes to be seen.
Emergency units across England are still well below the Government time-target of seeing 95 per cent of patients within four hours of entering A&E.
Just 89.3 per cent of patients were seen within the time frame in July, slightly down on the 90.7 per cent recorded in June.
DEATH OF THE SAME-DAY GP APPOINTMENT?
Only a third of patients can now see their family doctor on the day they call up, a major survey has revealed.
And a quarter of patients have to wait at least a week before they can get an appointment to discuss their health.
The GP Patient Survey 2018 asked 760,000 people about their dealings with their doctor.
Almost half of respondents described their overall experience of their practice as very good, while 37.6 per cent said it was fairly good.
Dr Nikita Kanani, acting director of primary care for NHS England, said: ‘General Practice is the foundation of the NHS and this survey shows patients appreciate the fantastic job GPs and the wider primary care work force are doing in times of real pressure, helping more people living with increasingly complex conditions.
‘We are already putting record funding into primary care after years of under-investment, with an additional £2.4 billion every year by 2020 to help drive improvements in care, including widening access with more GPs in training than ever before – a record 3,157 began their studies last year.
‘As we develop a long-term plan for the NHS, we will look to further build on these successes and this critical foundation.’
July was the busiest month in A&E since records began back in 2010, with 2,176,022 attendances, data released today revealed.
Cancer targets missed again
Only 79.2 per cent of patients in England started treatment within two months of being urgently referred by their GP, figures showed.
It means the target of 85 per cent of patients to start treatment in 62 days was once again breached in June – the 30th month in a row.
Since the target was first breached in January 2014, around 107,000 people have waited more than two months for treatment to start.
Macmillan Cancer Support’s director of policy Moira Fraser branded the figures ‘unacceptable’.
She said: ‘Today’s announcement marks two and a half years of continuously missed key cancer waiting times.
‘This milestone is a bleak reflection of the pressures felt across all aspects of cancer care in the NHS.
‘It mustn’t be forgotten at the heart of these figures are thousands of cancer patients and their families having their lives put on hold for months on end as a result.’
‘One arm tied behind our back’
Dr Tajek Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, accepted the heatwave had an impact on the NHS.
However, he argued the hot weather should ‘not be used to excuse inappropriate resourcing’ in the health service.
Dr Hassan said: ‘Working in a continually under-resourced and declining system has consequences – all of which are detrimental to our patients.’
He added patients and staff have been left to suffer in ‘unbearably hot conditions on wards and in waiting rooms’ because of ‘system failures’.
Dr Hassan said: ‘These latest figures show we are in danger of slipping backwards and that we haven’t fully recovered from the last winter.
‘We will be entering autumn and next winter with one arm tied behind our back.’
What do health chiefs say?
NHS England said hospital trusts reported respiratory problems being higher than expected for this time of year.
A spokesperson also said there was a higher number of cuts, sprains and fractures, which may be because people spent longer outdoors in the hot weather.
They added: ‘As temperatures soared, the NHS saw an unprecedented summer surge last month with a record 2.2 million patients attending A&E.
‘And thanks to the hard work of staff nine in 10 people were seen, treated and admitted or discharged within four hours.’
A ‘summer crisis’
Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, last month said many hospitals had seen a large increase in attendances and admissions.
He said this had added to pressures on emergency departments and acute medical units over recent weeks, derailing attempts to recover ground lost over the winter.
He said: ‘We know about the effect cold weather has on health, but the recent hot weather has reminded us that heat can be equally as dangerous for people.
‘The concern is that, certainly in some hospitals, we have bounced unexpectedly from the recent extreme winter into a summer crisis.’
How Britain’s temperatures have been over 75F for 47 days in a row during the prolonged heatwave
The top temperature somewhere in Britain has been over 75F (24C) for 47 days in a row up to and including yesterday.
Of those 47 days, some 29 have seen temperatures of at least 85F (29.4C), while ten have been at least 90F (32C).
The hottest day of 2018 record has been broken six times within the period – including on four days in a row in June.
The lowest reading in the 47-day period was 75.2F (24C) on July 28, while the highest was 95.2F (35.1C) two days earlier.
Here are the top temperatures recorded in Britain on each of the past 47 days:
June 23: 76.3F (24.6C)
June 24: 79.7F (26.5C)
June 25: 86.2F (30.1C)
June 26: 87.4F (30.8C)
June 27: 89.4F (31.9C)
June 28: 91.4F (33C)
June 29: 90.5F (32.5C)
June 30: 85.1F (29.5C)
July 1: 90F (32.2C)
July 2: 88.2F (31.3C)
July 3: 86.2F (30.1C)
July 4: 84.4F (29.1C)
July 5: 88.6F (31.2C)
July 6: 88.5F (31.4C)
July 7: 88.7F (31.5C)
July 8: 90.3F (32.4C)
July 9: 86.9F (30.5C)
July 10: 79.3F (26.3C)
July 11: 81F (27.2C)
July 12: 79.7F (26.5C)
July 13: 82.6F (28.1C)
July 14: 85.3F (29.6C)
July 15: 87.4F (30.8C)
July 16: 88.7F (31.5C)
July 17: 78.4F (25.8C)
July 18: 80.2F (26.8C)
July 19: 84.3F (29.1C)
July 20: 83.1F (28.4C)
July 21: 84.4F (29.1C)
July 22: 85.6F (29.8C)
July 23: 91.9F (33.3C)
July 24: 88.5F (31.4C)
July 25: 89.6F (32C)
July 26: 95.2F (35.1C)
July 27 – 94.5F (34.7C)
July 28 – 75.2F (24C)
July 29 – 76.3F (24.6C)
July 30 – 79.2F (26.2C)
July 31 – 78.4F (25.8C)
August 1 – 80.4F (26.9C)
August 2 – 87.1F (30.6C)
August 3 – 91.8F (33.2C)
August 4 – 85.6F (29.8C)
August 5 – 86.4F (30.2C)
August 6 – 90.5F (32.5C)
August 7 – 91.8F (33.2C)
Yesterday – 78.1F (25.6C)
This year’s run of 47 days with temperatures over 75F (24C) is unusual for Britain – but just misses out on the record.
That is held by 1995 which saw a 53-day period from July 5 to August 26 when the mercury hit at least 75F (24C).
In comparison, the famous heatwave summer of 1976 saw 15 days in a row when temperatures hit at least 89.7F (32C).