- NHS England winter daily situation reports will not include key performance data
- Royal College of Emergency Medicine president says “somebody has decided to glaze over the windscreen”
- NHS England says less weekly data will “minimise the bureaucratic burden on frontline hospitals and GPs”
NHS England will not publish figures on the number of ambulances queuing, four hour waits in emergency departments, cancelled operations or delayed transfers of care on a weekly basis, as it has done in previous winters.
Winter performance reports provide a snapshot of which areas of the urgent and emergency care system are facing pressure.
The president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said the lack of timely data this winter was “greatly to be regretted”.
NHS England is due to start publishing weekly situation reports from 11 December.
The data published includes beds closed due to norovirus, accident and emergency diverts and closures, and A&E attendances and admissions.
This year, however, NHS England will not publish figures on the number of ambulances queuing outside A&Es at all and will only publish the number of cancelled operations, patients waiting over four hours in A&E and DTOCs on a monthly basis, with a six week delay.
NHS England changed the publication date of performance data in June so that data that was previously published weekly is now only published monthly and six weeks after the date.
An NHS England spokesman said it was “seeking to minimise the bureaucratic burden on frontline hospitals and GPs”.
This means figures for December showing how many operations were cancelled, how many patients waited more than four hours and how many DTOCs took place will not be published until February.
Clifford Mann, president of the RCEM, said without weekly figures on these important areas trusts would have a “lack of good data”.
Dr Mann referenced a Commons health committee report from 2013 that called for clearer information to better understand the urgent and emergency care system and where pressures are felt. He said without this information the system will “fly blind”.
He added: “It seems as though somebody has decided to glaze over the windscreen.”
He said the data was “very useful” to make “meaningful comparisons”, as well as showing trusts if they were an outlier for poor performance or if others were similarly struggling.
He compared the delay in publishing the data to telling a patient their temperature reading six weeks after the event and said losing timely data was “greatly to be regretted”.
The NHS England spokesman said: “As previously announced, we will be publishing on a monthly basis a full and comprehensive set of data on NHS performance for the public throughout the year, including this winter.
“This will include the normal measures such as the four hour waiting standard and delays in transferring patients. The advantage is that doing this gives people a complete picture while also smoothing out week to week fluctuations, which can be misleading.
“In addition, during the coldest weeks of winter, we will be collecting on a weekly basis some operational data, while seeking to minimise the bureaucratic burden on frontline hospitals and GPs, and this will also be published on a weekly basis. England is the only one of the home countries that does a bespoke winter publication.”