Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive of The King's Fund, commented on the latest monthly NHS performance data
‘Thanks in part to earlier planning and increased capacity, NHS performance is not deteriorating compared to last winter. This improvement is welcome news for patients, but we should not become desensitised to the fact that the waiting time standards set by the government - and expected by the public - are consistently being missed.
‘It has been over eight years since the A&E target of 95% of people being seen within four hours has been met nationally. And while some progress has been made in reducing the waiting list for routine care, it still stands at 7.6 million - a figure that would have been startling a decade ago.
‘In the past few days, the Prime Minister said that one of his key pledges - to improve waiting list performance - has been missed, pointing to strikes as the reason this commitment was not met. While industrial action undoubtedly impacts patients and the NHS, in truth, long waits for hospital care have been many years in the making.
‘The NHS is taking action to increase capacity, including opening more beds and expanding virtual wards, and to improve handovers from ambulances to hospitals. But month after month we see that patients are still struggling to access NHS services. There are no quick fixes to this long-term issue, but the solutions will lie in bolstering out-of-hospital care such as primary, community and social care services, making health and care a more attractive place to build a career, and ramping up efforts to help people live healthier lives.'
Notes to editors
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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.