The NHS is under an “unprecedented degree of pressure” for this time of year, the chief executive of NHS Providers has said.
Chris Hopson said the health service is experiencing “very, very high levels of people coming into accident and emergency departments” with “the ambulance services under real pressure”.
He told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips: “Wherever you look, Trevor, right the way across the NHS – be it in mental health services, be it in hospitals – the NHS is under an unprecedented degree of pressure for this time of year and that is before the traditional winter peak.
“We know that the NHS tends to feel the most pressure in early to mid-January so there is a high degree of concern.”
However, he added: “Obviously this is what the NHS is here for.
“We’re here to provide the best quality of care to everybody who needs it and our staff are working absolutely flat out to ensure that we deliver in line with the NHS constitution because that’s what we’re here for.”
He warned it was a “guessing game” as to how long waiting lists could become.
“We simply don’t know how many people who didn’t come forward during Covid-19, during the pandemic, will actually come forward, and therefore we are in a bit of a guessing game about exactly how many.
“But the bit I can assure you is that NHS staff and NHS leaders are working incredibly hard at the moment to create that plan to ensure that we can get through that backlog as quickly as possible.”
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He added: “For example, after the January and February peak in COVID this year, we actually hit a very high peak of the number of people waiting for more than a year. So we hit 430,000 people. But look by October we’ve actually cut that peak by more than a third because we’re going flat out.
“So what we’re seeing is that staff are going as fast as they possibly can to ensure we get through elective activity as soon as possible.”
Last week paramedics warned patients are “at risk” from record ambulance delays.
Average wait times for callouts to potentially serious conditions are more than twice the national standard, NHS England figures showed.