Non-essential ED visits on the rise
As winter approaches, the NHS in England is coming under increasing pressure resulting from presentations at Emergency Departments (EDs) with minor ailments. In new data analysed by the Press Association News Agency, it was revealed that ED attendances with conditions including sore throats, hiccups and earaches had risen significantly.
ED cases concerning sore throats rose by 77% from 2021-22 and 2022-3, while cases of earache rose 22% from 191,287 to 233,723. The jump in non-essential ED presentations can partly be attributed to increasing wait times at GP practices, although other non-urgent care pathways are available to patients - most notably, the NHS 111 Online service. However, NHS Digital data from 2020-1 revealed that there were around twice as many attendances to A&E departments in England for the 10% of the population living in the most deprived areas (2.2 million), compared with the least deprived 10%. Marginalised communities on the lower end of the wealth spectrum therefore tend to use EDs more frequently, and this pattern of behaviour has been undoubtedly exacerbated by the Cost of Living Crisis. A survey by NHS Providers revealed that a majority of Trusts (72%) have already seen an increase in mental health presentations due to stress, debt and poverty.
In Wales, hospital wait lists hit an all-time high
Meanwhile data released this month by Digital Health and Care Wales revealed that waiting lists for hospital appointments have hit an all-time high. There were 760,282 patient pathways on the list for treatment, although given that some patients have multiple appointments for multiple conditions, the number waiting is likely to be closer to 593,000.
The data showed that one in five patients were waiting more than a year for their appointments. Ambulance response times to life-threatening calls also increased, amid an announcement from the Welsh government that an additional £425m would be spent on health and social care in the remainder of the year. The statistics also indicated that there are almost 1,600 patients who are ready to be discharged but continue to occupy a bed due to delayed transfer of care.
Government announces national pelvic health service to support women
The Department of Health and Social Care has announced plans for the implementation of a nationwide pelvic health service to support women who go through traumatic births. 1 in 3 women experience urinary incontinence 3 months after pregnancy, 1 in 7 experience anal incontinence 6 months after, and 1 in 12 women report experiencing symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse. These issues can seriously impact women’s capacity for work, their social and sexual relationships and mental health.
The Government has announced an injection of £11m into the development of a pelvic health service that will offer women a self-assessment of their pelvic health, education on the risk of pelvic floor dysfunction and provide additional support to those at higher risk of pelvic health problems. Kate Brintowrth, NHS England’s Chief Midwifery Officer, said “to increase the support available, the NHS is rolling out dedicated pelvic health clinics nationally, bringing together expert clinicians under one roof, so women can seek help quickly and easily - and already thousands of women have been supported through our pilot sites”.