NHS Winter Crisis: Thousands left in ambulances

16,900 people in a week kept in NHS ambulances waiting for hospital care. The highest number of people this winter were forced to wait in back of ambulance during Christmas week in England. 

This article originally appeared in the Guardian.

Record numbers of patients were forced to wait in the back of ambulances last week as hospitals in England struggled to cope with demand for medical treatment as the NHS’s winter crisis began in earnest.

In all 16,900 people – the highest number this winter – were stuck in the back of an ambulance waiting to enter an A&E unit to be assessed and treated in the week from Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve.

Of those, 4,700 – again the most in any week this winter – had to endure a delay of at least an hour, according to NHS England’s latest figures, published on Thursday, on how the service is performing under the extra pressure that winter brings.

Hospitals in England also set another unwanted record last week with A&E units forced to divert patients elsewhere, because they could not cope, a total of 39 times – the highest seen this winter.

The Liberal Democrats said the figures showed that the NHS’s winter crisis was deepening. They blamed government underfunding of the health service for a situation which has seen more than 20 NHS acute hospital trusts across England forced to declare a “black alert” – an official distress signal – in recent days.

“These figures show the NHS crisis is worsening, with thousands of patients being stuck in ambulances outside A&Es and hospitals suffering from a severe lack of beds,” said Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader.

“Every day seems to bring yet more bad news about the state of the health service. The blame lies firmly at the government’s door. Ministers refused to provide the funding top NHS officials said was necessary and now patients are paying the price.”

Ministers should implement his party’s plan for an extra penny on income tax to raise an extra £6bn to improve the struggling health and social care systems, he added.

Bed occupancy also rose again to worryingly high levels after it had dropped in the run-up to Christmas, when some patients were discharged so they could be at home at that time. In all 91.7% of general and acute hospital beds were full last week, up from 90.9% the week before and well above the 85% limit which hospitals are meant to stick to in order to reduce the risk of infections such as MRSA and C dificile and of patients suffering poor care.

The only good news for the health service in the latest statistics was that the average number of beds closed because of norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, fell to 880 from 1,026 the week before. But NHS England’s summary of the latest situation also stressed: “However, there has been a marked increase in recent weeks as to the number of reports of norovirus and they are now comparable with the five-year average for this week.”

Flu is also becoming a problem for the NHS. There were seven flu-related deaths in the week to 24 December and 61 people admitted either to intensive care or a high dependency unit because of flu. Twenty-three people had died of flu in the last 11 weeks, NHS England said.

This article originally appeared in the Guardian.

Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Shaun Hartigan
    commented 2018-01-20 09:11:05 +0000
    Hello, My name is Shaun Hartigan, a member and supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party and my local group in Reigate, Surrey.
    I believe the protest in London, on 3rd feb, will be very well attended and receive good media coverage. I also consider that the magnitude of public opposition, to the present attack on our NHS, will be better recognised if protests could be arranged nationally outside hospitals, where procedures and operations have been cancelled, to coincide with the one in London.
    We are organising one here, to be staged outside East Surrey Hospital. If we can get a few people, directly affected by this recent spate of cancellations, to brandish placards stating the fact, it will make a strong statement.
    Are any in your organisation, nationwide, organising anything similar?
    Not everyone will be able to travel to London and a display of nationwide solidarity could really show a stamp of support for that demonstration.

Donate Volunteer


Join Mailing List