Christmas will see NHS under massive stress

Experts in healthcare have expressed their concern that the NHS will suffer over the winter period more than ever

Health experts are warning that the NHS is likely to come under massive strain over the Christmas period, according to the Daily Echo.

NHS England data showed that bed occupancy, handover delays and long stays were down last week – however, Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, has warned that the figures “don’t show the whole picture”, as occupancy was still far above the recommended 85% limit.

Additionally, with the focus of ministers taken up by Brexit, the union Unite is concerned that their energy will not go towards the NHS as a result, and foresees many problems for health services over winter.

Unite national officer for health, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, said: “The NHS is facing a perfect storm this winter as ministers’ energies are subsumed by Brexit.

“The £20bn a year injection of extra cash for the NHS by 2023-24 announced by the Government in the summer is simply not going to be enough to cope with rising demand as the population increases.

“It works out at three per cent a year when, historically, since the NHS was founded in 1948, the average has been four per cent – the shortfall in funding is glaring.

“Every year the NHS faces a difficult period during the winter, but this time we are facing a perfect storm as a diverse range of issues come home to roost.

“It is time that health secretary, Matt Hancock, and his ministerial team refocus their energies on tackling the crisis engulfing the beleaguered NHS, rather than simply, once again, kicking the can down the road, which seems to be the maxim for this government.”

Dr Scriven added: “As we approach the holiday season the pressure on the frontline of healthcare is ever-increasing.

“We can see in today’s data there is massive stress on the system with overall bed occupancy at 94.5% and nine hospitals showing more than 99% full even on their best days.

“Additionally, these figures don’t show the whole picture as they are ‘massaged’ by including specialist centres, such as children only, which always run at 70%.”

An NHS spokesman responded: “NHS performance in key areas has improved this week, which is a testament to the hard work of the service’s staff, in and out of hospitals, across the country.

“That includes GPs and their teams delivering evening and weekend appointments in every part of the country, doctors and nurses providing expert advice through NHS 111, and ambulance and A&E staff standing ready to deal with emergencies.

“Hospital bed occupancy fell compared to the week before, and was also lower than the same week a year ago. The proportion of NHS staff who have had the flu vaccination is also up on last year, which was itself a record high.

“But since the festive period is often a challenging time for the NHS, the public can help us help them stay well.

“Keeping homes warm helps and, as the British Heart Foundation have said today, it’s vital that those who are eligible and haven’t yet got their free NHS flu jab do so now.”

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