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03.01.19

Hospitals are coping better with festive pressures and are ‘better equipped’ for winter crisis

The NHS seems to be coping better with winter pressures this year with fewer A&E closures and ambulance delays than this point last year as health chiefs say the health service has been “better equipped” for winter by an extra £420m of funding.

With 81 projects implemented by hospitals to provide improvements across England, the latest NHS England data released for the festive period show lower levels of A&E diverts, ambulance delays and levels of flu and the vomiting bug Norovirus also remain low.

This data comes as Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, warned that hospitals are expecting “mayhem” when the cold snap hits, with many preparing to face “severe difficulties” this weekend.

The leading doctor says dropping temperatures, a growing number of people with the flu and “skeleton staffing” could lead to an influx of patients, which Scriven says the NHS is “horrendously understaffed” to deal with.

But the 32 A&E diverts during the last two weeks are down from 45 in the same period last year, and one in nine ambulance crews have experienced delays dropping patients off at hospital compared to last year’s peak of one in five.

Health minister Stephen Hammond has today said that the NHS has been far better equipped for winter pressures this year thanks to a £420m winter fund, including upgrades to emergency departments, wards and bed capacities, investment in ambulance services for state-of-the-art vehicles and £240m for adult social care.

He said: “We know winter is always challenging, and that’s why we have given the NHS £420 million to prepare and improve resilience for this year.

“The health and care sector has spent this money wisely, delivering upgrades and improved services in 80 hospitals, and plans to support 30,000 more people to be cared for at home this winter have helped free up vital hospital beds.”

Last year the NHS experienced blanket cancellations to non-urgent operations to help ease the burden on A&Es, and patients were reportedly queueing in corridors in large numbers.

Image credit - Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images

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