Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, said:
'Today’s data highlights the fragility of a health service after nearly a decade of austerity, with insufficient staff or funds to keep pace with rising need.
'Despite lower rates of flu and winter vomiting viruses than last year, the NHS is under more pressure than ever. Over 100,000 more people attended emergency departments in January 2019 than in the same month last year, and performance against the 4 hour A&E target has fallen to its lowest level on record. Bed occupancy has reached the highest level so far this winter, and at 95.2% is well above levels deemed to be safe.
'More people are arriving at hospital by ambulance than in previous years, and a greater percentage of them are waiting in queues to be handed over to the care of A&E teams. Last week over 3,000 people waited for more than an hour to be handed over to the care of hospital staff.
'We can’t blame current NHS performance on bad weather or a viral outbreak alone. Instead we’re seeing a continuation in the trajectory of significantly raised demand for emergency hospital care from rising numbers of sicker patients. The NHS has a new long term plan, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Significant cuts to public health services, and the ongoing lack of a solution for social care are taking a toll which the government needs to address.'
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