The NHS Confederation has said that the latest NHS winter figures are encouraging, but that the ‘toughest days may well come later’.

With the latest NHS winter situation report showing that admittance for winter related illnesses such as respiratory problems, flu and pneumonia are increasing, the NHS is under as much pressure as ever to perform.

GP appoints have recently been made available in the evenings and on weekends in a bid to help alleviate the annual pressure, and frontline staff have been praised for helping NHS services to run more smoothly over the recent festive period.

Figures have shown that the average occupancy rate among hospital beds from 24-30 December this year was 87.5%, compared to 91.7% during 25-31 December the previous year.

Responding to the latest winter situation reports, Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“The NHS has delivered significant improvements on last year’s performance and that’s welcome news for patients and the public. But the NHS is not yet in the clear as the toughest days often come later in the winter when severe cold weather, flu and norovirus can strike.

“We have yet to experience the same pressure as last year but it’s clear the NHS is in better shape this winter to respond. This is a tribute to the hard work of staff and the robust planning that has gone into preparing front-line services for this winter.

“Ambulance delays and bed occupancy rates are both down, while we have seen far fewer A&Es diverting patients. This is very encouraging but our members tell us that the toughest days may well come later in the winter so they will be prepared for this.”