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Nursing Standard straw poll reveals 90% of respondents believe winter pressures are worse than 2016-17

Nurses have demanded the prime minister and health secretary join them on the front line during what many are calling the ‘worst winter crisis’ in NHS history

Nurses have demanded the prime minister and health secretary join them on the front line during what many are calling the ‘worst winter crisis’ in NHS history.

  • NHS England data reveals bed occupancy rates climbed as high as 93.5% on New Year's Eve
  • Prime minister refuses to say there is a crisis
  • Nurses vent their fury on social media

Trolley corridor

A straw poll by Nursing Standard on Facebook found that more than 90% of respondents (141 out of 154) said that winter pressures are currently worse than last year.

More than two thirds (107) of nurses said it was the worst winter crisis in history and no respondents said the situation were better than at the start of 2017.

'NHS hospitals in England were at bursting point'

The poll results come after NHS England data revealed bed occupancy rates climbed as high as 93.5% on New Year's Eve, up from 86.7% on Christmas Day, with an average of 91.7% over the previous seven days.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘Today's figures show that almost every day last week, NHS hospitals in England were at bursting point, with over 90% of beds being used – well above the 85% safe limit recommended by experts.

‘Lack of beds for new patients is a major factor contributing to the current severe pressure on the NHS, but it's impossible for trusts to open extra beds without more nurses to staff them.’

On Wednesday (3 January), prime minister Theresa May refused to say there was a crisis, instead saying the service had more funding, beds and had also reduced delayed discharges of older people to free up more beds.

Outrage over PM's comments on social media

Her comments caused outrage on social media, with nurses challenging her to experience life on the front line of stretched NHS hospitals.

One person wrote: ‘Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt, I doubt very much that you will read this of course, but I challenge you both to come and work on any NHS ward and see how things really are!’

Another nurse offered the prime minister to join her on a 13.5-hour shift and see if it changed her mind.

While a colleague posted: ‘Theresa May, we invite you to come and work at our hospital for a day. Having a patient in the corridor of every ward is not a crisis?

‘Not enough staff to cover the patient to staff ratio still not a crisis? Ambulances queueing outside of emergency departments?

‘What do you call a crisis, May? We’re looking for recommendations so maybe if you do a day with us you can tell us how we are not in a crisis.’

Beyond crisis

Some people suggested the situation was beyond crisis, while a former nurse warned: ‘There is going to be a vast increase in the death rate of patients discharged home without adequate back up from community nursing and social care.’

Ms May today apologised to those experiencing a delay or a cancelled operation during a BBC interview.

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