NEW FIGURES exposing the escalating winter crisis in the NHS were published yesterday morning by NHS England, forcing Tory PM May to apologise for the first time.
In the last week of 2017, 16,900 patients were stuck languishing in the back of ambulances waiting in a queue outside hospitals up and down the country since A&Es were so understaffed because of Tory cuts that staff were not available for paramedics to hand the patients over.
May said: ‘I know it’s difficult, I know it’s frustrating, I know it’s disappointing for people, and I apologise.’ Her apology comes as cold comfort to NHS staff and patients who know that it is her party’s policies of mass A&E closures, the closure of maternity and children’s departments and the privatisation of NHS services which are the cause of the problem.
Up until now, only anecdotal evidence has been available about the developing winter crisis, but now the hard statistical evidence has amplified doctors’ and nurses’ demands for more staff, more equipment and more funding for the NHS.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: ‘These figures paint a clear picture of just how congested and overstretched the system is, and is further evidence that pressure on the NHS continues to intensify. The winter months have always been more of a challenge for the NHS, but in recent years the pressure on staff and services has reached new levels with patients unfairly bearing the brunt of long waiting times and cancellations.
‘We urgently need more long-term planning to ensure the NHS can meet rising demand on services and has the capacity to deal with the inevitable spike in demand each winter. Funding is a critical part of this, given that the NHS receives about £10 billion less annually compared to other leading EU countries. This is why we are calling on the government to plug this funding deficit, with investment that would deliver the extra beds, staff and services which are badly needed.’
Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘These new figures show that almost every day last week, NHS hospitals in England were at bursting point, with over 90% of beds being used, well above the 85% safe limit recommended by experts.
‘Lack of beds for new patients is a major factor contributing to the current severe pressure on the NHS, but it’s impossible for Trusts to open extra beds without more nurses to staff them. The RCN has been warning of under-investment in nursing staff for several years – now that underlying problem has developed into a full-blown crisis.’
Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the figures showed the ‘shocking scale of the crisis in the NHS’ and said ministers should be ashamed. He said once you add up all the delays since the start of winter it meant there had been more than 75,000 patients ‘left languishing’ before A&E staff could see them.