The NHS is under an “unprecedented degree of pressure” for this time of year, the CEO of NHS Providers has said.
Chris Hopson said health care is experiencing “very, very high levels of people coming to accident and emergency departments” with “ambulance services under real pressure”.
He told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips: “Wherever you look, Trevor, right across the NHS – be it in mental health services, be it in hospitals – the NHS is under unprecedented levels of pressure at this time of year , and it is before the traditional winter peak.
“We know the NHS tends to feel the most pressure in early to mid-January, so there is a high level of concern.”
However, he added: “It is clear what the NHS is here for.
“We are here to provide the best quality of care to all who need it, and our staff are working hard to ensure that we deliver in accordance with the NHS Constitution, because that is what we are here for. “
He warned that it was a “guessing game” about how long waiting lists could be.
“We simply do not know how many people who did not sign up during COVID-19, during the pandemic, will actually sign up, and therefore we are a bit in a guessing game about exactly how many.
“But what I can assure you is that NHS staff and NHS leaders are working incredibly hard at the moment to create that plan to ensure that we can get through that backlog as quickly as possible.”
He added: “For example, after the peak in January and February of COVID this year, we actually reached a very high peak for the number of people waiting for more than a year. So we hit 430,000 people. But look to October, we have actually cut that top by more than a third because we are about to go flat out.
“So what we’re seeing is that staff go as fast as they possibly can, to make sure we get through optional activity as quickly as possible.”
Last week, paramedics warned patients are “at risk” due to recorded ambulance delays.
Average waiting times for callouts for potentially serious conditions are more than double the national standard, figures from NHS England showed.
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