In the Autumn Budget the Chancellor allocated an extra £337 million to help deal with winter pressures on the NHS. This money is with the NHS now and we are already starting to see signs of improvement: despite the fact that nearly 5% more people attended A&E last month than in the same period last year, performance against the 4hr target is currently 0.5% higher. Overall, since 2010 we are seeing 1,800 more people every day within the 4 hours, which is made possible by the fact we have over 1,800 more emergency care doctors and 600 more emergency medicine consultants in our trusts.
However we can never be complacent, which is why additional measures to support resilience during winter are being put in place:
Extension of the flu vaccination programme: Every winter several million people in the UK will get flu and for some the consequences can be devastating. That is why this year we extended the flu vaccination programme, making more people than ever before eligible for a free flu jab. In addition to being offered to those existing groups who are most vulnerable to the virus, this year the vaccine will also be offered to all children aged two to eight. And, for the first time ever care home staff are also receiving vaccinations free of charge, matching the offer made to frontline NHS workers.
Extended access to GP appointments: We will make sure GP appointments are available throughout the Christmas holidays. For the first time nationally, urgent appointments will be available from 8am to 8pm at your local GP or one nearby from 22nd December to 7th January with the single exception of Christmas Day.
Hospital flow and bed capacity: We know that good hospital performance is reliant on patients being able to flow through the hospital and discharged effectively when appropriate. The equivalent of at least 1,000 beds have been freed up by the system’s efforts to reduce delayed transfers of care (DToCs), supported by the additional £1bn funding for adult social care that was announced in the March Budget.
National Emergency Pressures Panel: This year we are further strengthening the NHS’s ability to respond to risk by forming a new National Emergency Pressures Panel which will support the system in managing clinical risk. The panel will be chaired by NHS England’s Medical Director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, and made up of senior clinical and social care leaders. It will advise the NHS and Ministers on the level of system risk nationally, whether it should be escalated or de-escalated and potential actions that could be taken to mitigate such risks.
There is much more to do but we are making good progress.