Time to really prepare the NHS for winter

If the NHS is not in crisis then it is making a very good impression of it.

If it looks like a crisis and feels like a crisis, then many would say it is a crisis. Politicians and NHS leaders may not agree, but whatever it is called working in the NHS in winter is hard, particularly when there are not enough staff to do the job and for many it feels like a crisis.

For children’s services the pain of winter is being felt particularly hard where you might expect: emergency departments and critical care, but the knock-on effects are being seen elsewhere too.

At the heart of the problem is increased demand, going hand in hand with a service desperately short of nurses. In England, latest figures from NHS Digital show that NHS trusts are only managing to fill one nursing or midwifery post in seven advertised. Total number of vacancies reported in September was 34,260 up 2,400 on the previous quarter.

'If this winter shows us anything it is that the dedicated and caring staff that work in all areas should be rewarded'

There are many reasons for the shortages, which affect areas with high living costs particularly, but if this winter shows us anything it is that the dedicated and caring staff who work in all areas should be rewarded, and there should be more of them.

Elsewhere there are calls for services to be redesigned to reflect the conditions people present with in winter more accurately. The British Lung Foundation is calling for more beds, more community and ambulatory care facilities, and more active preventive strategies to deal with respiratory conditions which are more prevalent in winter.

Illnesses such as bronchiolitis which, the charity says, is the condition responsible for the biggest increase in admissions of children under five years, over the past five years in winter.