Despite a relatively mild winter and a record low of flu diagnosis, medical experts believe the coming months could present the National Health Service with the worst winter on record.
A record number of A&E patients have endured longer waiting times and a deluge of frustrations, whilst mounting pressures on the NHS have sparked fears that 2018 could present a worse winter than last year.
Fletcher’s Senior Solicitor, Christian Beadell, who specialises in Medical Negligence believes patient safety must remain at the forefront of everyone’s concerns, irrespective of developing strains on the NHS.
He said: “The impending winter crisis and pressure on A&E units to deliver treatment to high patient numbers is a significant concern for patient safety.
“The pressure to react swiftly and make accurate diagnosis in acute situations will only increase over the coming months.
“Whilst teams are undoubtedly doing their absolute best to accommodate numbers, and juggle patients the public can also assist by making use of their GP where possible and avoiding unnecessary pressure on the service.”
Christian also appreciates that the current climate is a tentative one that the NHS finds itself.
In the midst of Brexit negotiations and social and economic uncertainty, safely accommodating the demand of the nation’s emergency rooms was never going to be straight forward.
He continued: “This is a difficult choice for many patients who understandably want their condition looked at as quickly as possible.
“With the recent report from GP practices in the UK showing that average practice lists have increased by nearly 50% over the last decade (GPonline 12 December 2008) there is no easy solution to managing the increasing patient demand.
“For the NHS, the Courts have indicated that lack of resources or capacity is not a defence to providing a reasonable standard of care and it’s crucial that the service delivery level does not drop.
“We appreciate that this is no mean feat and we can only wish all healthcare users and providers a safe and trouble free Christmas.”
The latest performance statistics, however, back the growing perception that emergency rooms are under unsustainable pressure.
Hospitals nationwide have missed waiting-time targets as a rising number of patients have come forward.
- Only 87.6% of A&E patients were treated within four hours. Target 95%
- Hospital beds were at a 94% full capacity high. 85% is a safe standard
- 25 hospitals received diverted patients last week breaching NHS guidelines.
- More than 10,000 patients spent at least 30 minutes with ambulance crews before admitted to hospital breaching NHS guidelines.
- Nearly 55,000 patients spend four hours or more on a trolley while waiting for a bed.
- October saw 405 operations cancelled, 42% more than the 287 cancelled in 2017.
Miriam Deakin, the Director of Policy and Strategy at NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, believes:
“Despite the extensive preparations by trusts, today’s figures make it very clear the NHS is on course for a very difficult winter.”
The King’s Fund also believes the NHS is in trouble, stating that the health service has been “operating in the red zone” for some time.
Chief analyst, Siva Anandaciva, said.
“Despite a mild start to winter and low flu levels, targets are still being badly missed.
“These figures show little slack in a system which is operating consistently in the red zone.
“Hospital bed occupancy levels are already higher than recommended levels, the point at which hospitals are so full that good patient care is put at risk,”
In response, NHS England have stressed that the rising demand for healthcare has created an unprecedented patient-hospital demand.
The volume of patients admitted for emergency this November was up 6.3% on the same month last year, at 545,000.
Furthermore, the number of A&E admissions was also 3% more than 2017’s total.
Speaking on behalf of NHS England, a spokesperson said.
“NHS staff continue to work hard to deal with increased demand across the board, seeing 1,000 more people within four hours in A&E every day in November compared to last year,”
“A growing proportion of people are getting same-day emergency care, which prevents the need for an overnight stay, and hospitals have freed up an additional 742 beds, by working closely with councils to help more people return home with the right care in place.”