- Waiting lists have soared to an all-time high in the wake of the pandemic
- Yet output levels have stalled in the face of attempts to clear the backlog
The NHS has launched a review into why hospitals aren’t treating drastically more patients with a ballooning budget and workforce.
Waiting lists have soared to an all-time high in the wake of the pandemic, with the knock-on effects of Covid and strikes sending the system into meltdown.
Yet output levels have stalled in the face of attempts to clear the backlog.
This is despite ministers having allocated the NHS an extra £20billion since 2019 — taking its total budget past the £155billion-a-year mark.
At the same time, the workforce has risen by more than 200,000.
Officials have recruited consultancy firm McKinsey to conduct a 10-week probe to pinpoint inefficiencies.
The NHS budget has jumped 13 per cent, or £18billion, from £137.4billion in 2019 to £155.4billion this year, official figures show
Official figures also show waiting lists for routine NHS procedures also shot up to a a new record high, with around 6.5million patients in England waiting for 7.77million appointments and procedures in England
It will ensure the health service is doing ‘everything possible’ to boost productivity, according to the NHS, which the Treasury has urged to be more frugal.
McKinsey’s probe is expected to cost thousands of pounds, The Times reports.
It will include an analysis of why some NHS trusts are performing much better than others.
For example, 86.5 per cent of patients waiting for routine care at Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust have yet to breach the NHS’s 18-week target.
However, the figure is just 38.1 per cent at Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, latest NHS England data for September shows.
Overall, the NHS treated 1.44million patients on the backlog in September, 25,256 more than the 1.42million it treated in the same month in 2019.
This marks just a 1.8 per cent boost to performance.
This despite the NHS budget rising 13 per cent, or £18billion, from £137.4billion in 2019 to £155.4billion this year, and the NHS adding 200,000 more workers to its head count over the same period.
At the same time, the NHS is battling with bed blockers — patients who remain in hospital even though they are medically fit to be discharged. A lack of social care staff to look after patients once they have been discharged has been blamed.
NHS officials hope the report’s conclusions will highlight that its infrastructure is a factor and support their calls for improved computers, equipment and buildings.
Other factors thought to be to blame include less experienced staff and bottlenecks in parts of the service due to staff shortages.
Health sources told The Times that Health Secretary Steve Barclay has behaved ‘like a Victorian mill owner’ in his orders for NHS staff to work harder.
He believes the health service is badly managed and it can be up to 30 per cent more efficient if squeezed harder, they said.
While the Treasury did not order the McKinsey review, sources claimed that Mr Hunt welcomed it as he wants public services to boost their efficiency.
Ben Zaranko, of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told the newspaper: ‘We are treating about the same number of patients with more staff and more money.
‘It’s a really puzzling situation. The government is quite right to be unimpressed that the extra resources don’t seem to be buying much.’
An NHS spokesperson said: ‘This work will build on existing, extensive work to ensure the NHS is doing everything possible to deliver the biggest possible benefit for patients and how we maximise the use of national programmes to support frontline services.
‘NHS staff are working incredibly hard to see and treat record numbers of patients – treating more people than before the pandemic, carrying out double the number of cancer checks now than a decade ago – while making significant progress on recovering services, with year-long waits reducing in September, two-year waits virtually eliminated and those waiting longer than 65 weeks more than halved since their peak.
NHS staff have seen their pay rise in recent months. A first-year junior doctor now earns £32,300, while a consultant’s basic full-time pay is now around £93,600. The average annual basic pay for a full-time nurse is £37,763, while the figure is £37,743 for ambulance staff. These figures don’t include additional payment for overtime and bonuses. Meanwhile, the average pay for GPs has hit £118,100 before tax
Under three quarters of emergency department attendees (70.2 per cent) were seen within four hours in August, down from 71.6 per cent in September, NHS data showed today. It is the lowest figure logged since December 2022. NHS standards set out 95 per cent should be admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour window. This was last met in July 2015
Overall, the NHS treated 1.44million patients on the backlog in September, 25,256 more than the 1.42million it treated in the same month in 2019. This marks just a 1.8 per cent boost to performance. This despite the NHS budget rising 13 per cent, or £18billion, from £137.4billion in 2019 to £155.4billion this year
‘This significant progress has come despite record demand for services, the huge disruption of industrial action, dealing with more than a 100,000 staff posts being vacant and as the NHS has committed to delivering £12billion of annualised savings by 2024/25.’
It comes as the NHS backlog spiralled to a record 7.7million in September.
More than one million patients are waiting for more than one appointment or procedure, according to data shared for the first time.
The UK’s doctors regulator has warned that the NHS will have to rely on foreign staff due to long waiting lists, high demand for care and staff vacancies.
The General Medical Council’s annual workforce report states that two-thirds (63 per cent) of doctors on the UK’s medical register qualified in another country.
What do the latest NHS performance figures show?
The overall waiting list grew by more than 20,000 to 7.77million in September. This is up from 7.75million in August.
There were 227 people waiting more than two years to start treatment at the end of September, down from 265 in August.
The number of people waiting more than a year to start hospital treatment was 391,122, down slightly on the 396,643 in the previous month.
Some 44,655 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England in October. The figure is up from 33,107 in September.
A total of 144,926 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission in October, up from 125,829 in September.
Just 70.2 per cent of patients were seen within four hours at A&Es last month. NHS standards set out that 95 per cent should be admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour window.
In October, the average category one response time – calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries – was 8 minutes and 40 seconds. The target time is seven minutes.
Ambulances took an average of 41 minutes and 40 seconds to respond to category two calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes. This is more than twice as long as the 18 minute target.
Response times for category three calls – such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes – averaged 2 hours, 31 minutes and 5 seconds. Nine in 10 ambulances are supposed to arrive to these calls within two hours.
Even with plans to boost the number of medics being trained in Britain, foreign doctors will still account for 39 per cent of UK doctors by 2037, it estimates.
Meanwhile, one in 10 Brits failed to get through to their GP surgery last month, according to a survey from the ONS.
Its poll of 4,984 households found 10 per cent didn’t manage to make contact with their practice when they last tried.
The figure equates to around 2.8million people each month.
Data also shows that three in 10 Brits found it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to get through to their practice.
Experts blamed ‘intense workload and workforce pressures’ in the general practice system and said the figure ‘isn’t surprising’.
Campaigners warned today that the elderly are being forced to turn to A&E or private healthcare due to difficulties accessing their GP.
A survey of more than 1,200 over-60s by Silver Voices revealed that 67 per cent had struggled to get an in-person consultation. Eight in 10 had been forced to accept a phone appointment.
Nearly a fifth showed up at an emergency departments because they couldn’t see their GP and three in 10 had paid for a private appointment due to poor NHS care.
Dennis Reed, director of Silver Voices, said: ‘The problems of access to GPs are continuing to grow, and barriers are being erected by practices to limit opportunities for face-to-face interaction with doctors.’
He added: ‘The family doctor is becoming an elusive species with many hoops to be negotiated before an audience is finally granted to the patient.
‘So it is natural that, in desperation, large numbers of older people are turning to private health care or attendance at accident and emergency departments.’
Latest NHS England GP performance data shows there were around 31million appointments in September, of which fewer than four in 10 took place on the same day a patient contacted their practice.
A quarter of patients had to wait up to a week, while 13 per cent waited between seven and 14 days and 22 per cent were seen between a fortnight and a month later.
Of all appointments, seven in 10 were face-to-face, a quarter were over the phone and around two per cent were video calls.
In August, officials confirmed that more than 1,000 GP surgeries would have their telephone systems upgraded by spring to end the ‘8am scramble’ for appointments.
The £240million scheme forms part of the Government’s Primary Care Recovery Plan, which will aim to make it easier and quicker for patients to contact their family doctor.