Data also shows more than 480,000 people called NHS 111
A day after health secretary Jeremy Hunt apologised to patients affected by a decision to postpone thousands of operations in January, latest NHS data has revealed that record numbers of people called NHS 111 over the festive period and there was a sharp rise in ambulances being delayed outside accident and emergency units.
The data, covering the week ending 31 December, shows that more than 480,000 people called NHS 111 – a 21 per cent rise on the previous week.
Ambulance crews faced delays of over 30 minutes handing over patients to A&E staff nearly 17,000 times during the week – a rise of over 40 per cent on the previous week.
A spokesman for NHS England said: “Hospitals, GPs, ambulances and other frontline NHS services have been extremely busy between Christmas and New Year, reporting higher levels of respiratory illness and some indications of increasing patient illness severity and flu. These increased pressures were mirrored in the NHS 111 service.”
The Liberal Democrats said the figures showed that the NHS’s winter crisis was deepening. They blamed government underfunding of the health service for a situation which has seen more than 20 NHS acute hospital trusts across England forced to declare a “black alert”.