NHS has most 999 calls on record

The NHS has experienced two exceptionally busy months, with 999 calls and visits to accident and emergency departments reaching record highs

18th November 2021 about a 2 minute read
“This is a system that is really struggling in all aspects of acute care despite everyone concerned doing their utmost.” Dr Nick Scriven, past president of the Society for Acute Medicine

NHS 999 services have just experienced their busiest ever month.

In October, ambulance staff responded to more than 82,000 life threatening call-outs, an increase of more than 20,000 on the previous high for October in 2019.

In the same month, staff answered a record 1,012,143 calls, and major accident and emergency departments treated more than 1.4 million people – the highest ever for the month and third highest of all time.

NHS 111 also saw demand increase to an average of 63,000 calls a day in September, up almost 2,000 a day on the previous month.

Professor Stephen Powis, the NHS’s national medical director, said: “With the highest number of 999 calls ever answered for a single month, the busiest October on record for major A&E and the rollout of boosters as part of the successful NHS vaccination programme, there is no doubt pressure on the health service remains incredibly high.

“But despite high demand, NHS staff are going above and beyond to see more patients and deliver millions more tests, checks, treatments and operations.”

Significant rise in number of patients waiting more than two years for treatment

Monthly performance data for September also shows cancer referrals at a near record high, with 27,342 beginning treatment, up from 24,801 in the same month last year. During the same month, the NHS carried out 1.9 million diagnostic tests, compared with 1.7 million tests in September 2020.

Data from NHS England also revealed that the number of patients spending more than two years on the NHS waiting list rose 28% from 9,754 to a 12,491 between August and September. More than 300,000 people are now waiting more than a year for treatment.

The waiting list as a whole grew to 5.8 million in September, up from 4.3 million in September 2020.

Of those waiting more than two years, 2,665 were awaiting trauma and orthopaedic treatment such as such as hip and knee replacements.

Dr Nick Scriven, a past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, told iNews: “This is a system that is really struggling in all aspects of acute care despite everyone concerned doing their utmost.” It was “really concerning,” he added, “to see so many senior clinicians on the frontline so tired and worn down – I’m not sure how much more they have to give before errors are made or they come to significant harm.”