Over a quarter of a million people (255,055) were checked following an urgent GP referral in August – the highest number since records began.
Thanks to NHS awareness raising campaigns and the ‘Deborah James’ effect, over the last year, a record breaking 2.8 million people were checked – an increase of almost a fifth compared to before the pandemic (2.32 million in 2018/19).
The number of people receiving cancer treatment continues to be high, with well over 27,000 people starting cancer treatment in August.
Monthly performance statistics also show the number of people waiting 18 months for treatment continues to fall and was almost 60% lower in August compared to the same month last year (121,711) and down by more than a quarter since the NHS launched the elective recovery plan in February (68,493).
Overall, the monthly figures show more NHS activity than before the pandemic with 4% more patients receiving treatment in August compared to the same month in 2019, and more than two million tests and checks carried out with the total diagnostic waiting list also now at its lowest level since February (1.51 million).
The latest figures show that there are 10,522 patients in hospital with Covid – more than double the number seen last month (4,630 on 13 September).
The NHS will tomorrow open the online booking service for autumn boosters to those aged 50 and over, urging eligible people to get vaccinated as soon as possible ahead of the winter. Since it launched just over a month ago, almost 7 million boosters have already been delivered.
People can also book their annual flu vaccination if they are eligible with health chiefs warning of the potential threat of a ‘twindemic’ this winter after lower than average flu infections during the pandemic.
NHS staff working in urgent and emergency care continue to face high demand for their services, with the number of the most serious ambulance call outs in September (69,458) up by a fifth compared to before the pandemic (55,753 in Sep 2019).
Delays discharging patients into the community and social care continue to apply additional pressure to bed capacity in hospitals, with only an average of 40% of patients discharged when they were ready in September, and an average of 13,305 beds a day occupied by patients who no longer need to be there.
The NHS is already preparing for winter, with plans to deliver more beds, extra staff to answer 999 and 111 calls, and measures to help ensure patients are discharged on time.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Despite huge pressures on the NHS this summer, the incredible work of colleagues across the country meant that in August we delivered more potentially life-saving cancer checks than ever before, and cut 18 month waits by 60% over the last year.
“This was despite continued pressure from Covid patients in hospital, which has now risen to more than double the numbers seen in August, and more of the most serious ambulance callouts than before the pandemic.
“As we prepare for a difficult winter ahead, it is vital that people protect themselves by coming forward for Covid and flu vaccinations if they are eligible as soon as they can – with bookings opening tomorrow to everyone aged 50 and over.
“Winter preparations don’t stop at vaccinations, and NHS services are gearing up to manage higher demand including increasing the number of beds and emergency call handlers, so it is vital that the public continue to come forward for the medical help they need, using NHS 111 online and where needed, calling 999 and going to A&E.”