Have Our Services Really Worsened Recently? Here's The Depressing Reality.

Day-to-day life certainly feels like it's changed since 2019.
Travellers queuing up at UK airports due to severe delays and cancellations earlier this month
Travellers queuing up at UK airports due to severe delays and cancellations earlier this month
Carl Court via Getty Images

Bills are soaring, the transport network seems to be deadlocked and the NHS is on its last legs – it doesn’t feel like the best summer to be in the UK.

Although the country is trying to return some form of normality as Covid worries recede, there’s no question that British services are struggling to get back on track.

But just how much have the organisations and services we rely on day-to-day changed over the last few years? Here’s a look at some of the numbers.

NHS

A&E

After a video of patients waiting up to 13 hours to be treated went viral last week, it’s pretty clear A&E departments are completely bogged down.

The number of patients waiting more than four hours to be admitted was 66,933 in April 2019 according to stats from NHS England – by April 2022, this had risen to 131,905.

The long list of patients waiting more than 12 hours to be admitted was also listed as just 442 back in April 2019. Two years later, this had gone up to 24,138.

Ambulances

It’s not just the A&E department either. Distressing reports emerged on Thursday, explaining how a 94-year-old patient had to wait five hours for an ambulance to arrive after he fell. The accident turned out to be fatal.

It shows that during his final 999 call, Kenneth Shadbolt asked: “Can you please tell them to hurry up I shall be dead.”

According to the Nuffield Trust’s data, delays for ambulance arrivals for life-threatening calls (which account for a tenth of most calls) have significantly increased over the last three years.

Ambulance trusts must respond to these types of calls within seven minutes. In March 2019, most met this target, but by March 2022, the response time for this had crept up to nine minutes and 35 seconds on average.

It gets significantly worse for calls which fall in slightly less urgent categories. Call-outs which previously took 21 minutes on average in 2019 took an hour in March 2022. For rarer (usually non-emergency situations), people can now wait up to 10 hours to be seen.

The number of patients waiting for hospital treatment has shot up too, from 2.3million in January 2009 to 6.5million in April 2022.

Patients waiting for NHS hospital treatment in England
Patients waiting for NHS hospital treatment in England
Press Association Images

Staff

A staffing crisis in NHS England has contributed to the delays brought about by the Covid backlog. Many workers have left the profession, some due to the the burnout from pandemic.

According to reports from March 2022, one in 10 nursing roles are not currently filled while the service needs one more doctor for every 16 it already has.

Vacancies recorded between October and December in 2021 also hit a new record since April-June 2019.

Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing’s director for England, dubbed the numbers “deeply worrying”.

She told The Guardian: “The fact that nursing vacancies remain stubbornly high, at about 40,000 in the NHS in England, is deeply worrying. With every job that remains unfilled, safe patient care becomes even harder to maintain.”

Travel

Railway network

In March 2022, rail fares increased by the largest amount in nine years climbing by 3.8%. The average commuter now faces paying £3,263 for their season ticket.

However, it’s worth pointing out that rail fares were already climbing prior to the first lockdown, with campaigners warning that the cost was “outstripping people’s incomes” back in January 2020.

Then there are the strikes taking place next week on June 21, 23 and 25, which is set to be the biggest walkout for 33 years. The Centre for Economics and Business Research believe it will cost at least £91million to the economy.

Airports

Airports have also been hit with staff shortages in recent months, with delays causing 3,363 flights cancelled in the UK up to the month of March – up 0.9% from flights cancelled in the same period in 2019, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

British Airways alone cancelled 8,000 flights between March and October, while EasyJet has cut around 40 flights per day for the rest of June, while almost 200 flights into UK airports were cancelled from a range of airlines over the bank holiday weekend.

Bosses have blamed the Covid pandemic – and the government’s handling of it – for the issues.

Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association told the Paris Air Forum: “Boris Johnson, he highlights one of the reasons why he should continue to be prime minister as being the way he handled the pandemic. What a joke. They should have done a hell of a lot better.”

While others have pointed the finger at Brexit for creating staff shortages, transport secretary Grant Shapps just claimed that airports across Europe were experiencing the same shortages after the pandemic.

Fuel

The changes to our petrol prices do not come as a surprise to anyone. A global problem prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – two countries which provide a large chunk of the world’s fossil fuels supplies – has been hitting headlines around the world for months.

As of June 7 2022, a litre of unleaded costs 180.73 per litre and diesel costs 186.57p per litre.

According to the RAC, on June 3 2019, unleaded cost 140.67p per litre and diesel cost 135.51p per litre.

Unsurprisingly, our energy bills have also leapt up to the highest level seen since the 1950s, according to Sky News analysis, due to a shortage of fuel.

Is that...all?

Um, no.

Inflation is also at a 40-year-high due to the cost of living crisis and interest rates have climbed to 1.25% – the highest levels we’ve seen since 2009.

On top of that, passport delays and problems receiving driver’s licences have added to the already painful summer unfolding this year.