Recent statistics from NHS England have shown that the NHS has come under unmitigated pressure earlier than ever this year as winter starts to set in, particularly in their Accident and Emergency departments.
November saw a record number of hospital admissions and the highest number of people waiting in A&E for over four hours in 18 months.
“This paints a very bleak picture of the NHS in crisis, when we haven’t even had the winter pressures yet” said Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association. “Patients must not suffer as a result of financial pressures from management. Care cannot and should not be compromised.
Andy Burnham, Labour Shadow Health Secretary remarked, “It is clear that hospitals in all parts of England are struggling to cope. Care services for the elderly are being pushed to the brink; leaving people turning to A&E. Whole hospitals are being overwhelmed by the pressure.”
So why has the NHS come under so much pressure, especially in the last couple of months?
The financial aspect is apparent, with lack of funding and staff shortages it was perhaps obvious to some that the NHS was going to struggle as the colder months set in.
However, there is still an issue with patients not following correct procedure when falling ill, as A&E staff are seeing increasing numbers of patients with non-emergency issues. The country’s most senior doctor, Prof Sir Bruce Keogh has appealed to the public to make better use of pharmacies and out of hour GP services to alleviate the stress placed on A&E departments.
It has also come to light recently that in some circumstances hospital managers and senior staff are taking legal action to have ‘bed-blockers’ removed from hospital beds. The Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospital Trust, who have started to implement this policy, warn families who have been told that their elderly relatives that are well enough to go home have seven days to find alternative accommodation for them. This is because they do not require medical attention and therefore not require a bed in hospital. It has been reported that some families even asked the hospital to ‘keep hold’ of their relatives whilst they go on holiday, or are abandoning them whilst in hospital until they are ready to make other arrangements.
So what can the NHS do to deal with this demand?
Long-term plans have been compiled by health officials, which include improving care for elderly people in their homes, improving GP care and services with better access particularly at weekends.
This will essentially give the present system an overhaul, which ultimately should improve the NHS as whole and provide a better environment for staff and patients alike.