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NHS winter action is helping reduce ambulance response times

New data from NHS England has shown that last week was the busiest period for ambulances so far this winter. 

The data, which was published towards the end of last week, highlighted that more than 93,500 ambulances arrived at hospitals to hand over patients. In addition, researchers discovered more than twice as many NHS 111 calls were answered within a minute compared to last year.

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These positive findings were also unveiled during the same week that junior doctors commenced the longest-ever strike in the history of the NHS. Against this backdrop, the number of seasonal viruses were also seen to be on the rise.

During the week ending 31st December 2023, there were on average, 1,313 patients in hospital with a virus each day. This was up by more than a third on the week before (942) and a five-fold increase from a month prior (243).

Of the individuals that found themselves in hospital with flu last week, 81 were in critical care – an increase of almost 70% from the previous week.

‘These new figures are testament to the incredible hard work of NHS staff who are continuing to deliver for patients and make significant progress on our winter plans, despite ongoing demand for emergency care, increasing levels of winter viruses, and in a week that included the Christmas period,’ professor Julian Redhead, NHS England’s national clinical director for urgent and emergency care said. ‘And we know the pressure is not going to let up any time soon…in one week alone the number of patients in ICU with flu jumped up by 70% and the number of patients in hospital with Covid continues to rise.’

Professor Redhead added: ‘Although we have extensive preparations in place for strikes, and emergency care will continue to be prioritised, there is no denying the NHS has started the year in a very difficult position – this latest round of strike action will not only have [impacted last week] but will have an ongoing effect on the weeks and months ahead, as we struggle to recover services and cope with heavy demand.’

Although this new research casts a newfound hope for the NHS, there is still a lot of work to be done. The six-day strike that junior doctors are participating in, which is set to end at 7am on 9th January, will unfortunately add to the number of acute inpatient and outpatient appointments that have had to be rescheduled. Currently, the number is sitting at 1,219,422.

However, as the government began planning measures to help the NHS this winter earlier than ever before – which included introducing the nationwide rollout of care ‘traffic control’ centres, extra ambulances and beds, more NHS call handlers, and the expansion of the world-leading virtual wards programme, we can only keep our fingers crossed that pressures continue to ease on the NHS and staff are able to return to working in an environment they originally signed up for.

Image: Mat Napo

More on this topic:

Junior doctors have commenced the biggest NHS strike in history

Dementia diagnosis rates have hit a three year high, NHS finds

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