The BMA is calling for an inquiry into the causes, consequences and solutions to the extreme pressure that has been placed on the NHS primary and secondary care services over the last two winters. The call comes as the organisation publishes a new report, NHS Pressures - Winter 2018/19: A hidden crisis, which paints a bleak picture.
The report shows that A&E attendances rose to 6.2 million this winter. Performance against the four-hour target remained poor, just 0.1 per cent better than the worst winter on record, last year. One in four patients waited over four hours in major A&E units. However, trolley waits over four hours showed improvement and 85.1 per cent of patients were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.
A total of 678 urgent operations were cancelled in January and February 2019, comparable to 717 last year. This was despite a slight increase in the number of critical care beds.
While 93 of 134 trusts escaped the winter without hitting 100 per cent bed occupancy, only 35 trusts managed to keep their average bed occupancy below 92 per cent and only five trusts kept their average occupancy below 85 per cent. One trust spent 59 per cent of the winter at 100 per cent capacity. This all shows that there was consistent pressure on beds over the winter months, which is a serious cause for concern, the BMA says.
The report sets out nine “implementable actions” that the association believes would help to relieve these pressures. Among these is a recommendation to establish a select committee inquiry into mounting winter pressure on both primary and secondary care services.