Patients will not forgive a re-run of last winter’s horror showby Jon Ashworth / December 10, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in Mid-winter (Jan-Feb) 2019 issue of Prospect Magazine
A poll by the Royal College of Physicians recently found that over half of doctors feel worried about the ability of their hospital to deliver safe patient care in the coming months. A mere 17 per cent of doctors were confident about preparations for the increased pressures that winter will place on the NHS.
If this all sounds troublingly familiar, it is. Last year saw the worst winter crisis ever recorded. It culminated in A&E consultants facing “disaster zones” with wards “bursting at the seams.” In total, 185,000 vulnerable and elderly patients were stuck in ambulances for over 30 minutes because of pressures on emergency departments. Average bed occupancy was 94 per cent, almost 10 percentage points higher than the rate deemed safe by clinicians.
A mother in Surrey told a newspaper that her 13-year-old daughter was turned away from a children’s unit, because the space was being used for adult inpatients. Photos from a hospital in Yorkshire showed patients sleeping on floors. And yet, throughout last year’s crisis, the prime minister kept her head buried in the sand. Denial became the order of the day.
This year, paralysed by Brexit infighting, the government has yet again failed to prepare for winter. Its proposals make fanciful promises about what the NHS will be able to deliver in five years’ time but lack a credible plan for five weeks’ time. In the autumn Labour called on the government to provide a £500m bailout fund to cope with winter pressures. Regrettably, our pleas went unheard.
October 2018 was the worst month since 2010 for emergency departments reaching their targets. A recent BBC investigation discovered one in five hospitals in England misses waiting time targets. Since last winter, the NHS waiting list has rocketed to 4.3m—a 10-year high….