NHS discharge delays hit record levels

Research published in NHS England's October performance data shows that there were more than 160,000 days lost to delays in October, a 33 per cent increase since 2010, when record-keeping began.

The numbers also included areas where NHS targets were being missed, such as ambulances, cancer care and A&E units.

The NHS England October performance data found that: ambulances missed their target to answer 75 per cent of the most serious 999 calls in eight minutes - the fifth month in a row it has not been achieved; A&E units missed their four-hour target to see, treat or discharge A&E patients - the 13th time in 14 months that performance has dropped below 95 per cent; at the end of the month, 1.7 per cent of patients had been waiting more than six weeks for diagnostic tests - nearly twice the proportion that should be suffering such delays; one of the key cancer targets - the 62-day target for treatment to start - was missed with nearly one in five patients waiting longer; the NHS 111 phone service missed its target to answer 95 per cent of calls within 60 seconds; but hospitals did hit their 18-week waiting time target for routine operations, like hip and knee replacements.

Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals, backed the findings. He said: "Hospitals under pressure have become the status quo and this winter is unlikely to be any different.The solution often clearly lies outside of the walls of our hospitals and into communities."

An NHS England spokesman said: "Nobody could argue there isn't ongoing pressure on the NHS. Despite this our staff continue to provide quality services in the face of increasingly high levels of demand throughout the healthcare system.

"Front-line services are treating record numbers of patients. We continue to admit or treat and discharge more than nine out of 10 patients within four hours - a higher standard than any major western nation."

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