Hospitals across the UK are struggling to meet targets accident and emergency, cancer care, and planned operations, due to chronic underfunding.
The NHS in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland has missed every one of their three key targets in the last 18 months. The Scottish NHS has hit its A&E targets three times over the same period.
England has seen the biggest deterioration in performance over the last few years. In 2012-13, NHS England hit its key hospital targets 86% of the time, but has missed every monthly target over the last year.
On a local level, out of the 161 hospital trusts and health boards across the UK examined by the BBC, only the Luton and Dunstable NHS Trust has managed to hit all three targets each time over the past 12 months, according to a BBC report.
The deterioration of services means that patients are now twice as likely to wait more than four hours in A&E compared to four years ago.
DR Simon Walsh, an emergency medicine consultant from London, recently explained the problems facing A&E departments in an interview with the BMA. He said:
“A&E has always been a busy place to work in, and at times throughout my career there have been long waiting times for patients but certainly over the last five years or so, patients who are clearly unwell enough to need emergency admission to hospital seem to be waiting longer and longer on trolleys in our departments. There just isn’t anywhere to admit them, despite no-one being in any doubt that they need admitting.”
The situation has become so bad in England, that health secretary Jeremy Hunt has floated the idea of barring walk-in patients from attending hospital emergency departments in England in an attempt to head off a major winter crisis.
Meanwhile, targets are also being missed across the board for cancer care and planned operations. Patients are now a third more likely to wait over two months for cancer treatment and 75 percent more likely to face delays for planned operations since 2013. The waiting list has more than doubled to 500,000 people.
Health experts from the Nuffield Trust, Health Foundation and King’s Fund warn that current spending plans aren’t sufficient to maintain standards of care and meet rising patient demand from Britain’s ageing population. Instead of providing the required extra funds for the NHS, the government plans to reduce the amount it spends on health per person, according to the IFS.