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NHS faces a real crisis this winter. “Unacceptably long” trolley waits

UK’s National Health Service (NHS) faces a hard winter. Its busiest day in history was Thursday after Christmas, according to the UK Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, who said that in some parts of the country there have been a number of “unacceptably long” trolley waits (12 hours) with two deaths being recorded in the A&E.

After the British Red Cross warned about long trolley waits, Jeremy Hunt addressed the issue in a statement before the Parliament. According to Hunt, the NHS faced unprecedented demand during this winter. Some hospitals reported that A&E attendance was up by 30% compared with last year.

The Secretary of State for Health also said that the NHS prepared itself extensively for this season with over 1,600 more doctors and 3,000 more nurses than a year ago. Also, £400 million were allocated to local health systems in order to prepare for winter. In parallel, the country ran the largest ever flu vaccination program with over 13 million people vaccinated.

“The result has been that this winter has already seen days where A&Es have treated a record number of people within 4 hours, and there have been fewer serious incidents declared than many expected. As Chris Hopson, head of NHS Providers said, although there have been serious problems at some trusts, the system as a whole is doing slightly better than last year,” Jeremy Hunt said before the Parliament.

As cold weather is expected during this week, the pressure on medical professionals will continue especially as doctors saw a spike in respiratory infections and a rise in flu.

Local clinical leaders are asked to take measures in order to lessen the distress on the A&E.

According to Jeremy Hunt, officials and the public need to have an honest discussion about the purpose of A&E departments with the government being committed to maintain and deliver the 4 hour commitment to patients.

“This government is committed to maintaining and delivering that vital 4 hour commitment to patients. But since it was announced in 2000, nearly 9 million more people are using our A&Es, up to 30% of whom NHS England estimate do not need to be there, and the tide is continuing to rise. So if we are going to protect the 4 hour standard, we need to be clear it is a promise to sort out all urgent health problems within 4 hours, but not all health problems however minor,” Jeremy Hunt said in his statement.

Sylvia Jacob