Some health trusts are busier than ever amid a multitude of pressures on the NHS, a leading voice in the sector has said.
Despite lower levels of Covid hospital admissions recently than had been predicted, the latest performance figures are expected to show that every part of the health service is under “huge pressure”, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said.
Monthly NHS performance statistics are due to be published on Thursday.
Mr Hopson, boss of the membership organisation for NHS hospital, mental health, community and ambulance trusts, said there are six different pressures facing the health service.
He said: “Tomorrow’s NHS performance statistics are expected to show that every part of the health service is under huge pressure, despite the lower levels of Covid-19 hospital cases compared to predictions a month ago.
“Trust leaders are clear that, to measure the full extent of current pressure on the NHS, it’s vital to look at the full range of demand and staffing pressures, not just the Covid caseload.”
The pressures include recovering care backlogs “at full pelt”, lower bed capacity due to infection control measures, staff self-isolating and more workers on holiday than normal due to the build-up of leave cancelled in the pandemic.
Mr Hopson said the demand for urgent and emergency care is now exceeding pre-pandemic levels in some trusts, especially those in “holiday hotspots”.
He added that while recent hospital admissions due to Covid have been lower than predicted, it is still a “significant pressure, particularly in hospitals with high bed occupancy for other reasons”.
Mr Hopson said the pressure on ambulance services is “a particular concern”.
He said: “What’s particularly striking is how busy all parts of the NHS are – hospitals, community and mental health services, GPs and primary care.
“There is a particular concern about the unprecedented pressure on ambulance services, the fact that this has lasted for a number of weeks, and the impact this is having on both staff and patients.
“We now have some trust chief executives, particularly in the ambulance sector, telling us that this is now the busiest it has ever been.”
On Sunday, a new report warned the NHS waiting list in England could rise to 14 million by autumn next year and keep increasing.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said its modelling suggested that if millions of patients who did not receive care during the pandemic return to the health service for medical attention, then the number joining the waiting list could outstrip the number being treated.
Using different modelling on the number of patients likely to return for treatment and the capacity at which the health service operates, the IFS said that under even its most optimistic scenario the number of people waiting for treatment would rise to more than nine million in 2022, and only return to pre-pandemic levels in 2025.