Theresa May has apologised for delays at A&E and cancelled operations as the NHS faces a crisis with mounting winter pressures.
The Prime Minister visited Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey where she said recognised it was a’difficult’ time for people relying on the NHS.
She said: ‘I know it’s difficult, I know it’s frustrating, I know it’s disappointing for people, and I apologise.’
Her visit comes after it emerged that tens of thousands of planned operations could be delayed for at least a month as the NHS deals with the most urgent cases.
It also followed new figures released today which revealed that delays in ambulances delivering patients to A&E departments in England had reached their highest level of the winter, as those waiting more than an hour nearly doubled in a week.
The NHS England statistics showed a total of 16,900 people were forced to wait for more than 30 minutes to be seen by staff at emergency departments over the Christmas week.
More than 4,700 people were delayed for more than an hour.
While bed occupancy rates climbed as high as 93.5 percent on New Year’s Eve, up from 86.7 percent on Christmas Day, with an average of 91.7 percent across the week.
A rising number of NHS hospital trusts have declared a ‘black alert’ as 100 percent of hospital beds are in use.
NHS England classifies a black alert as a ‘serious incident’. It means the system is under severe pressure and is unable to deliver certain actions and comprehensive emergency care. It also means there is potential for emergency care and safety to be compromised.
Tens of thousands of non-urgent hospital appointments are being delayed or cancelled to free up capacity for the sickest patients until the end of January, amid warnings of extreme pressure facing A&Es across the country.
On New Year’s Eve, 12 hospital trusts reported 100 percent bed occupancy, the biggest total for several weeks.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt apologised to patients in England on Wednesday for the wave of cancellations, saying it was ‘absolutely not what I want’.