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27.09.17

Winter pressure is now ‘year-round crisis’

The chief executive of the NHS Confederation has called the winter crisis an “all year round crisis” in response to Labour’s call for a £500m cash injection to stop the health service from buckling under the looming winter pressures.

Whilst Niall Dickson welcomed the call for extra funds, he explained that additional resources have limited benefits when the NHS continues to struggle with insufficient staffing.

“In many cases trusts are simply not able to recruit the staff they need,” he said. “We need to recognise just how dependent each part of the system is on other services – struggling or non-existent social care, shortages of community nurses and hard-pressed GPs and mental health services will all have an impact on each other and on the emergency department.

“This must not just be left to emergency departments – every part of the system, from medical and nursing staff throughout hospitals, to all community and care services will be gearing up to do what they can to help during the next few months and they must be given all support that is possible – but we continue to argue that the system needs both reform and significant additional funding if it is to cope with the challenges of the next few years.”

With last winter the worst on record for NHS patients – as the health service saw 10,546% more patients waiting over 12 hours in A&E than it did five years ago – pressure is mounting for Theresa May to ensure her second winter in Downing Street is better than her first.

Dickson said: “Hospitals and emergency departments are struggling to meet demand and with bed occupancy at unsustainable and unsafe levels.

“Last year we were fortunate with the weather and the absence of a major virus – this year we may not be so lucky.”

The Department of Health has released an additional £14m to help reduce the strain, but this is far from what health bodies are asking for. Earlier this year, for example, NHS Providers called for at least £350m by July to ensure early winter planning and dodge severe pressures.

The outgoing NHS Improvement boss, Jim Mackey, also asked trusts to “focus hard” on bed capacity and planning during the cold season.

(Top image c. Rui Vieira, PA Wire)

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