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NHS doctors treating more patients than ever before

Friday 13th May 2016
The NHS saw its busiest year ever during 2015, a new report reveals. Image: jean-marie guyon via iStock
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NHS doctors experienced their busiest year in history in 2015, treating more patients in a 12-month period than ever before, according to a new report.

While this means that doctors were under an increasing amount of pressure, it also means that they were at their most productive and efficient, leading some to call 2015 both the worst-ever and best-ever year for the health service.

With doctors busier than in the past, those willing to work on a locum basis may find themselves in higher demand as the NHS steps up its recruitment efforts in order to meet government targets.

Here, we take a look at what NHS doctors achieved last year, as well as the areas where extra help may be needed to keep the same standard of care possible in the future.

What doctors did in 2015

New figures published by NHS England reveal that some 23 million people visited their local accident and emergency (A&E) department between March 2015 and the same month this year, marking an increase of more than 500,000 in comparison to the previous 12 months.

In fact, March 2016 was the busiest month on record for A&E departments, with over two million patients seeking treatment at their local facility during the four-week period.

What's more, 91.9 per cent of patients who visited A&E were seen by a doctor within four hours. Although this fell short of the NHS target to deal with 95 per cent of patients in this timeframe, a spokesman for NHS England said last year's result was "almost certainly one of the best performances in the Western world", as it equates to 21 million people being seen within the target time.

The UK government has pledged to increase the NHS' budget by four per cent more than the inflation rate over the next year, with hopes that this will see the targets being met, alongside allowing for greater investment in staff and resources to help this to happen.

Speaking to BBC News, Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, commented: "Dedicated frontline doctors and nurses are treating more patients than ever before.

"We welcome the extra money the government promised, but we still need a long-term plan to address the growing number of patients."

Areas where extra help is needed

However, the NHS England report also highlights areas where targets were missed, but many believe this is hardly surprising given the high volume of patients that doctors were required to treat over the past 12 months.

For instance, there was a four per cent increase in the number of people undergoing routine operations between March 2015 and March 2016, but 8.5 per cent of those waiting for a procedure had been on the waiting list for over 18 weeks. This is the worst result since records first began for this metric in 2012.

In addition, ambulances missed their target of responding to all of the most serious Red 1 calls within eight minutes for the tenth month in a row in March 2016, with just two in three medical emergencies being reached within this timeframe.

Furthermore, almost 170,000 delays in discharging patients were recorded due to a lack of support in the local community to assist them after leaving hospital.

As the NHS strives to improve operation waiting times and ambulance callout response times, Ms Marx called on the government to allocate greater funding to local authority community care, as a lack of provision in this area is leading to an increasing level of pressure being placed on NHS hospitals.

Written by James Puckle

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