NHS Providers has expressed concern about the "significant strain" faced by the health service in England, after latest figures showed growing pressure on urgent and emergency care, high hospital bed occupancy, and persistent levels of staff absences due to COVID-19.
The current situation added up "to a picture of the NHS running hot", it warned.
In the 7 days ending April 3, 20 NHS A&E departments in England issued diverts, with patients having to be taken elsewhere, according to NHS England. Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust and South Tyneside & Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust were among those affected.
The figures also revealed that there were 21,432 delays of half an hour or longer recorded for patients arriving by ambulance at all acute trusts in England in the week ending April 3. That was 26.9% of the 79,548 arrivals by ambulance.
Of the handover to A&E delays recorded, 9972 were of an hour or more, or 12.5% of ambulance arrivals.
South Central Ambulance Service, which covers Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Sussex, Surrey, and Hampshire, declared a 'critical incident' this week because of "extreme pressures" across its services, with difficulties releasing crews from busy hospitals.
Six hospitals in Yorkshire warned yesterday about growing pressures on services.
Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said: "We are concerned about the significant strain NHS trusts are under, particularly in urgent and emergency care. The reports of warnings issued yesterday by hospitals and ambulance services highlight just how busy trusts across the country continue to be, despite moving out of the traditionally busier winter months."
NHS Staff Absences
She said that ambulance services were "right at the sharp end", and that problems had been compounded by an increase in the number of people in hospitals with COVID-19, as well as "70,000 staff absent from work, 41% of which is COVID-related".
An average of 28,560 NHS staff in England were off work each day with COVID, or having to self-isolate, in the 7 days up to and including April 3, an increase of 3.6% on the previous week's average, NHS England figures showed today.
Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said on Thursday that 94% of hospital beds were now occupied, and that the latest figures underlined "just how busy NHS staff currently are".
He added: "Our frontline staff are working closely together with social care providers to ensure patients leave hospital as soon as they are fit to do so, and hospitals have increased bed numbers and created extra capacity in line with increasing pressure."
Delayed discharges "continue to be a real concern", according to Miriam Deakin, "indicating real pressure across the whole health and care system".
Thursday's figures were contained in the final weekly NHS situation report. Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing's director for England, remarked: "As systems declare critical incidents and patients face long waits for emergency care, the weekly release of key data from the NHS comes to an end today."
She called for the data sets to continue "in the interests of transparency".
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