Figures suggest that waiting times in A&E departments across Britain are becoming worse due to the growing pressures in hospitals.
Collected by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the data shows that 88% of A&E patients were admitted or treated within four hours. This is below the target of 95%.
Hospitals have also reported noteworthy problems with patient discharges.
In certain hospitals, a fifth of beds are occupied by patients ready to go home but not being discharged due to lack of community services available to provide care.
These problems have developed in spite of the fact three quarters of hospitals have increased their supply of beds in an attempt to relieve the pressure. A rising number of routine operations have also been cancelled for this reason.
Dr Cliff Mann, college president, said most hospitals have tried to increase the number of available beds to help them cope. Regardless of this, elective operations have been postponed and cancelled as there is insufficient bed capacity.
He also detailed the discharge delay problem. These have caused several hospitals to declare major incidents but show no sign of declining.
The college has been gathering this data over the past seven weeks to monitor the pressures felt by hospitals during the winter periods.
It displays a gradual decline in performance since hospitals began to submit the data at the beginning of October.
Then, a little more than 92% of patients were seen in four hours, in comparison to the 88% in the week ending November 13th.
If this performance is simulated across the NHS (and the college believes the data should reflect the national scope) it means that hospitals are in the worst shape they’ve been in heading into winter for a generation.
NHS England and the government have provided weekly data on the four-hour target in recent years, but this has now been stopped. Now, it is published monthly, with a time-lag of six weeks.
This means the latest official data is from September. It displayed the four-hour target was being missed alongside other targets covering diagnostic tests, cancer care and ambulance response times.
Scotland is the only part of the UK that now publishes weekly. The country has tended to show the most promising performance on the four-hour target recently.
Data up to the middle of November revealed that the percentage of patients seen in four hours was at 94.4%.
NHS England administers more than three quarters of UK hospitals. A spokeswoman said the way to deal with the strain on the system lies in the provision of more combined care between council-run social care and the NHS. This has been prioritised across Britain.
She said it is essential that patients well enough to be discharged from hospital can do so as early as possible and are assisted in their recovery with compassion and dignity.