November sees record demand in NHS England

NHS staff in England last month answered the highest number of 999 calls for any November on record, according to latest figures.

NHS England reports that more than 879,000 calls were answered over the period. The previous high for November was 794,516.

Last month was also the second busiest November on record for A&E, with more than two million patients seen at emergency departments and urgent treatment centres – up by half a million on the same time last year.

Figures reveal some progress on elective care with almost 150,000 more people starting elective treatment in October compared to the same month last year. Patients at the end of October were waiting an average of 12 weeks to begin treatment, compared to a high of 19.6 weeks on average in July last year.

NHS staff performed more than 1.9 million diagnostic tests – over 120,000 more than in October 2020 – and the average waiting time for one of the key checks, including MRI scans and endoscopies, now stands at 3.1 weeks, down from a peak of 8.6 weeks in May 2020.

NHS England further reports that cancer care continues to be at pre-pandemic levels, with more than 225,000 urgent referrals and over 25,000 people starting treatment in September. But this data comes as cases of omicron increase throughout the country, with the potential to set back progress. The NHS is urging the public to get their booster when invited.

NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: "These figures show that NHS staff are continuing to address the Covid backlog in the face of sustained pressure on urgent and emergency care.

"As we head into a very challenging winter, we are working with partners in social care to get as many patients who are fit to do so home for Christmas, which is right for them and their families as well as freeing up beds.

"There is much we do not know about omicron but experts advise that vaccines will still help in our fight against the virus."

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