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NHS leader warns health service faces ‘year-round crisis’

The NHS faces a year-round crisis as hospitals deal with ‘unsustainable and unsafe’ bed occupancy rates, a health leader has warned.
dickson

The NHS faces a year-round crisis as hospitals deal with 'unsustainable and unsafe' bed occupancy rates, a health leader has warned.

NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said hospitals and emergency departments were struggling to cope with demand, and highlighted a shortage of community nurses.

The warning from the body, which represents organisations across the NHS, came as the Labour Party called for a 500 million winter bailout fund to avoid a seasonal crisis.

Mr Dickson played down the impact such extra cash might have on the overstretched health service.

'In many ways the winter crisis is actually now an all year round crisis, with hospitals and emergency departments struggling to meet demand and with bed occupancy at unsustainable and unsafe levels,' he said.

Unable to recruit

'Although additional money is always welcome, in terms

The NHS faces a year-round crisis as hospitals deal with 'unsustainable and unsafe' bed occupancy rates, a health leader has warned.

dickson
Niall Dickson. Picture: Barney Newman

NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said hospitals and emergency departments were struggling to cope with demand, and highlighted a shortage of community nurses.

The warning from the body, which represents organisations across the NHS, came as the Labour Party called for a £500 million winter bailout fund to avoid a seasonal crisis.

Mr Dickson played down the impact such extra cash might have on the overstretched health service.

'In many ways the winter crisis is actually now an all year round crisis, with hospitals and emergency departments struggling to meet demand and with bed occupancy at unsustainable and unsafe levels,' he said.

Unable to recruit

'Although additional money is always welcome, in terms of the next few months there is a limit to how much additional resources can make a difference. In many cases trusts are simply not able to recruit the staff they need.

'Last year we were fortunate with the weather and the absence of a major virus. This year we may not be so lucky.'

He said every part of the NHS was gearing up to deal with the challenge: '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.'

At Labour's conference in Brighton shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said a collapse on the same scale as last year's winter crisis would lead to 10,000 more people waiting longer for emergency services.

Hospitals' capacity

If the NHS is as busy as last winter hundreds of operations will be cancelled and waiting lists will grow, according to Labour's analysis of official figures.

It said the £500 million it was calling for should be focused on boosting hospitals' capacity to deal with the winter spike, allowing them to hire extra non-agency staff, and improving the link between the NHS and social care to reduce delayed transfers of care.

Previous winter bailouts have ranged between £300 million and £700 million.

Mr Ashworth said: 'It is not acceptable for the government to stumble into another NHS winter crisis – they've been well warned and need to take action now.'


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