Large numbers of people have been admitted to hospitals within England during the last week, which has raised fears of a potential ‘winter crisis’ for the NHS.
A record number of 108301 people were taken to hospital for emergency treatment, with ward overcrowding resulting in 6587 patients waiting on trolleys for periods of up to 12 hours.
Hospitals are always busy during winter, due to seasonal illnesses and the cold weather increasing the numbers of infirm and elderly patients needing a hospital stay. This uses up the bed capacity and results in delays at the A&E departments.
Health experts are now very concerned at the sharp increase in demand, which is currently exceeding the capacity to cope. According to them, the demand is increasing and the performance is declining much earlier in the year than expected, and this is during a time of mild weather conditions.
NHS officials stated that they were ‘pulling out all the stops’ to try and avoid a crisis at the start of winter. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, admitted that the pressures on hospitals are higher than it has ever been and an added sum of £300m will be invested to lighten the load of winter pressures. This funding will be used to increase bed capacity and recruit additional staff. The total amount of funds now allocated by Government to ease the winter pressures has reached £700m. Ministers are desperate to eliminate the scenes of queues of ambulances and patients waiting for treatment.
The director of operations and delivery at NHS England, Sarah Pinto-Duschinsky, said that the past week there was an increase in the numbers of people seeking care. There were 2300 more A&E admissions than the previous week and the figure saw an increase of 6000 on the same period last year.
She said that this is the highest tally of emergency admissions since weekly data publication commended during November 2010.
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said the reports of full A&E departments, which have been coming in throughout the week, is extremely worrying. He said the Tory-led Government has pushed the care of elderly people to the limit, which has resulted in people going to A&E departments.
A spokesperson from the Department of Health said the NHS is performing well in spite of the demand and most people are being offered treatment quickly.
Image Credit: North West Air Ambulance