The latest NHS performance statistics show that A&E attendances were 3.6% higher in the last 12 months, compared with the previous 12 months. In December 2018 alone, there were 544,904 emergency admissions, which is 4.6% more than in December 2017. The number of patients seen in over four hours, however, was 277,646 compared to 300,893 in December 2017, representing a significant and promising decrease of 7.7%.

“Despite significant increases in the number of people needing treatment, the NHS has again managed to keep its head above water and even deliver improvements on last year’s performance, said Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, a membership body of NHS providers and commissioners, in response to these statistics. "This is good news for patients and the public and is in no small part down to the hard work of staff and robust planning from NHS trusts, clinical commissioning groups and other local organisations.”

He was particularly optimistic about the decrease in waiting times demonstrated by the statistics. “The public may again be concerned that key waiting time targets, such as the A&E four-hour standard, are again not being met. But they should take comfort from the fact that more people than ever are being treated within the four-hour standard.”

However, Dickinson was clear to point out the difficulties lying ahead. “Yet these statistics show the pressure on the NHS is still at fever pitch – and that’s without the severely cold weather or flu and norovirus outbreaks that may be yet to come.”

New ways of working are required to address these challenges. “We are not yet out of the woods and we need to find a more sustainable way of providing care. The new NHS Long Term Plan, with its emphasis on joined-up community care, is a major step forward and should help to improve patient care and relieve pressure on hospitals and other front-line services.”