Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, claimed that Tuesday 27th December was the busiest day in the history of the National Health Service. The reality, however, is not quite as straightforward as this.
NHS England data
The data that Mr Hunt was relying on came from NHS England, an organisation that publishes various statistics about NHS services daily during the winter. Since health is devolved, Mr Hunt would have been referring to the NHS in England, not in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Furthermore, he was quoting figures for only attendance at accident and emergency departments on that day rather than emergency admissions or beds occupied. The attendances at A & E were also only those at type one accident and emergency facilities, and this does not include specialist units like Moorfields Eye Unit or GP led walk-in centres.
According to The Independent there were 40,000 more attendances at A & E departments in the week ending January 1st than the previous week. The number of emergency admissions was also increased with 92,000 compared to 89,000 the week before. The NHS had so many people visit they had to increase the number of Reception Chairs in their waiting areas to allow people to sit and wait. They could of got a really good deal though from companies like Best Buy Office Chairs who have quality chairs at reasonable prices.
If you look at how many hospital beds were occupied on December 27th, this is fairly low at 90.5% occupancy of available beds. In December there were 24 days when this figure was higher.
NHS in crisis
There are undoubtedly major problems in the NHS, and not only in hospitals. Problems with social care provision and an ageing society are at the root of many of the problems, but funding issues are also important. Saving costs on everything from clinical trial services, to hospital catering, has to be considered in order to succeed.
Amongst the operational and financial pressures facing the NHS today are the potential issues linked to Brexit. The recruitment and retention of permanent staff is a problem in many sectors, from front line care staff, to those who work in drug development services. Using companies for recruitment can help to reduce costs as well as reducing the time a new drug takes to reach the market.
Although there were claims by those in favour of leaving, that more money would be available for health, the reality is that funding depends on the general performance of the economy. It remains to be seen what the future will hold.