NHS Providers says NHS trusts have done all they can to prepare for extra winter pressures, but say hospitals are already at breaking point.
Local and national planning for winter is more extensive and meticulous than ever before. But the health service may be sorely tested in the coming months as it is already at or close to full stretch. Trusts are working hard to minimise the risks for patients.
While preparations for winter have never been more meticulous and thorough, the report highlights continuing difficulties and pressures that could jeopardise trusts’ ability to cope. They include:
Lack of beds – the NHS is already running at 87 per cent bed occupancy, which means there is very little give in the system. Too many patients still face delays in being discharged after they are ready to move on.
Shortages of key staff groups including paramedics, GPs and A&E consultants and nurses.
Funding pressures – the additional NHS funding for winter in the Budget was welcome but has come very late to be used to maximum effect.
Flu – this year’s strain is potentially the worst we have seen in two decades, having already placed health systems in Australia and New Zealand under severe pressure earlier this year...