In September this year there were 43% more patients waiting more than four hours in A&E than two years ago.
There were 89% more 4-12 hour “trolley waits” - patients who have been processed through A&E only to be dumped in a corridor somewhere waiting for a bed in another part of the hospital.
Cliff Mann, of the College for Emergency Medicine, told the Guardian “This winter will probably be the worse than last year, which was the worst year we have ever had”.
The figures reflect both A&E cuts and cuts elsewhere.
Wards have been shut down. Community services have been cut. The number of overnight hospital beds in the NHS has gone down 6% since 2010. Bed occupancy is averaging above 85%, the maximum for safe patient care.
Once patients are in A&E there are no beds to refer them on to. The system is clogged up right to the front door.
Patients on waiting lists wait so long that they get worse and end up in A&E. Patients who have been treated are being discharged too early and without adequate community support, and come back into hospital via A&E.
GP walk-in centres were easing the pressure on A&Es. But one in four walk-in centres has closed since the general election due to “financial pressures”. A survey out this week shows that 20% of those who would have used a walk-in centre will now go straight to A&E.
Dr Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS Commissioning Board, has announced his answer — to shut down more A&E departments and make it more difficult to get an ambulance to take you to hospital.
None of this is necessary even in the general cuts regime. Last year, NHS bosses delivered the service £2.2 billion under a budget which already factored in the government’s £20 billion cuts.
Instead of using this money to expand community care, the Chancellor, George Osborne, squirrelled the money away into “deficit reduction”.
The people in control have made decisions to cut the NHS — and ro make extra savings on top. They are doing this because they want to turn healthcare into a viable money-making business, and hand over NHS cash to the bankers and private sector parasites.
Keogh is expected to argue for a vision where a few super A&Es deal with major traumas and remaining A&Es are downgraded to Urgent Care Centres. The only beneficiaries of this scheme would be private corporations, who are looking to run the Urgent Care Centres for profit.
Some that think the future of the NHS will be decided at the next general election. They are deluded. The future of the NHS will be decided in the streets and by industrial action in our hospitals.
Labour Party policy will shift towards reversing — rather than just remodelling — NHS privatisation and marketisation, and towards reversing NHS cuts, as and when we mobilise.
Mobilising now will also save lives this winter. And our Lewisham Hospital victory shows that mobilisation can win.