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NHS 18-month waits cut as staff contend with busiest October ever

NHS England is saying that the number of people waiting 18 months for treatment has been cut by almost 60% in one year as they continue to prioritise the elective recovery.

The number of patients waiting 78 weeks was reduced by 73,430. This compares to 123,969 in September 2021 and is the second most productive September on record – with more than 1.3 million non-emergency patients treated in hospital.

Busiest October ever for A&E attendances and most serious ambulance callouts.

Last month more than 2.17 million patients turned up to emergency departments around England while ambulance services responded to 83,986 life-saving incidents.

Despite hospitals also admitting nearly 1,000 Covid-19 inpatients each day in October, a third higher than the previous year – and an early outbreak of flu.

At the same time hospitals have had to contend with more patients coming in than going out, with less than half of fit patients discharged on time last month.

More than 13,000 patients spent more time in hospital than needed every single day – the equivalent of around one in 10 beds over the whole month.

Staff are working flat out to eliminate the longest waiting times for treatment, whilst also contending with record demand.

Delivering as many as half a million Covid boosters and flu jabs a day over the last couple of months and more than 13 million Covid top-ups while around 14 million getting a flu jab.

NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “There is no doubt October has been a challenging month for staff who are now facing a tripledemic of Covid, flu and record pressure on emergency services with more people attending A&E or requiring the most urgent ambulance callout than any other October.

“Pressure on emergency services remains high as a result of more than 13,000 beds taken up each day by people who no longer need to be in hospital.

“But staff have kept their foot on the accelerator to get the backlog down with 18-month waiters down by three-fifths on last year.

“We have always said the overall waiting list would rise as more patients come forward, and with pressures on staff set to increase over the winter months, the NHS has a plan – including a new falls service, 24/7 war rooms and extra beds and call handlers.

“The public can continue to play their part by getting their jabs and using NHS services in the usual way by calling 999 in an emergency and using 111 online for other health issues.”

NHS data published today also shows the number of urgent cancer referrals by GPs is up 11% for the 12 months ending in September, compared with the previous year, as 2,791,456 patients were referred to see a consultant.

It comes as NHS analysis published yesterday showed the NHS is diagnosing more patients with cancer at an earlier stage than ever before.

Last year, over 100,000 (100,461) patients were diagnosed with cancer at stages one or two when it is easier to treat – the highest proportion on record.

The NHS’s 111 service also took 1.3 million calls during September, an average of almost 50,000 per day and in nearly half of the calls answered, the patient spoke with a clinician or clinical advisor.

Anyone needing healthcare advice is asked to use NHS 111 online in the first instance and call 999 in an emergency as usual.

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