NHS winter pressures

Opinion and commentary on the pressures facing England's health and social care services over winter.


Many health conditions, including respiratory system diseases such as asthma, can be caused or worsened by cold weather.  Together with higher incidences of so-called ‘seasonal illnesses’ including flu and norovirus, this means the NHS often faces much greater pressure in winter, both in the community (including GPs and pharmacy services), and in secondary care in hospitals.
As the media warn of an impending ‘NHS winter crisis’, we take a closer look at the data, including NHS England's monthly performance statistics and daily sitreps, to examine the latest trends.

Our responses to NHS England statistics

Press release

Worrying picture of NHS performance at end of winter

Health Foundation response to the NHS England monthly performance statistics for March 2019.

Press release

Performance against the 4 hour A&E target has fallen to its lowest level on record

Health Foundation response to NHS Monthly Performance Statistics for February 2019

Press release

NHS coping under pressure so far this winter

Health Foundation response to NHS Monthly Performance Statistics for January 2019.

How is the NHS coping this winter?

Our analysts examine the performance of the NHS in England this winter, drawing on the latest data as well as front-line experience. Services may not be in crisis at the moment, but winter is far from over and the January statistics paint a worrying picture of targets being consistently missed.

In the first blog of winter 2018/19, Cat Turton looks at three key performance indicators (A&E waits, elective waits and bed occupancy) to explore the change in demand for patient care in hospitals across England over the past few winters. In the second, Becks Fisher draws on her first-hand experience working in an extremely busy GP surgery, blogging about the struggles her patients and colleagues currently face. Finally, in March our quality team will look back at this winter as it draws to a close, reflecting on how performance has varied across different areas of England.


The NHS this winter: looking beneath the national view

Lucinda Allen delves beneath the national picture to explore how local health systems in England have fared this winter.


Winter pressures in practice

How has this winter been for GPs and their patients in England? Dr Becks Fisher describes the pressures on general practice.


Is the NHS working on thin ice this winter?

How has demand for patient care changed this winter? Cat Turton explores the pressures on NHS hospitals in England.

How does winter affect patient journeys?

In the winter of 2017/18, we published a series of blogs and charts examining the winter pressures faced by the NHS in England. We followed the patient journey through the health service. Topics included the situation in A&E departments, challenges with hospital admissions and high bed occupancy rates, and what delayed transfers of care mean for people leaving hospital and returning home.


NHS winter pressures: Going into hospital

In this 2017 blog about winter pressures on the NHS, we look at what is happening at the front door of hospitals.


NHS winter pressures: Being in hospital

In this January 2018 blog, we looked at what was happening inside hospitals last winter.


NHS winter pressures: Going home from hospital

Tim Gardner looks at delays leaving hospital and returning home last winter.

Further reading


Trends in people admitted from A&E and waiting after decision to admit

January 2018 Chart of the Month. Fewer people attend A&E in winter than at other times of the year, but more of the people wh...

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