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NHS needs emergency £350 million to survive winter

Published on 04/09/17 at 10:35am

NHS Providers has stated that £350 million needs to be injected into the NHS to avoid the ‘humanitarian crisis’ that struck last winter. The plea comes despite the extra £1 billion promised to social care, in an attempt to alleviate the burden on the NHS, through rehousing individuals occupying hospital beds without medical need.

The winter is traditionally a difficult time of year for the NHS, as the numbers of patients visiting hospitals spike. The issue that the service faces is that many hospitals around England have already suffered a busier summer period than would be expected, with 90% of A&E patients seen within four hours being similar to the previous summer before the crisis and missing the target of 95%; as well as this, levels of occupied hospital beds are also higher than recommended levels and only slightly lower than last year.

Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, did suggest, in a piece published in the Observer, that lessons had been learnt from the previous year’s troubles. He wrote, “The good news at the end of August is that national level planning is considerably more developed than last year. The local areas at most risk have been clearly identified and there are plans to move staff from better performing areas to help those in trouble if required.  Emergency care performance has also been given greater priority.”

The bad news comes in the shape of a lack of staff, beds and other services to deal with the influx of patients expected this winter. Hopson detailed speaking to Trust leaders and, together, estimating the NHS needs between £200 and £350 million to adequately cope with the challenges facing it. Some Trust leaders have been quoted as suggesting, at present, that they are lacking 50 junior doctors on rotas to provide care.

Pauline Philip, NHS National Director for Urgent and Emergency Care, downplayed any potential crisis that could be expected. She is quoted as saying: "We are currently in the process of assessing how many extra beds trusts are planning to open over winter and early returns indicate that this will be more than 3,000.This is something we will continue to review on the basis of evidence rather than arbitrary estimates.

She added, “If the expectations for reduced Delays Transfers of Care outlined by the Government are achieved, this would free up a further 2,000-3,000 beds over the winter period, on top of the extra 3,000-plus beds that hospitals now say they're going to open.”

Ben Hargreaves

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