AS TEMPERATURES plummet the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM) anticipates ‘mayhem this weekend’ with the winter flu epidemic kicking in, affecting hundreds of hospitals across the UK, already stretched to breaking point because of a severe lack of staff.
Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society said: ‘Influenza is here and is already impacting the NHS and, with colder weather starting to set in, this will further stress already stretched services.
‘I and many colleagues across the country are anticipating mayhem this weekend as temperatures drop, but it will come as no surprise to us.’ Some A&E units and intensive care units are already full, especially with people who have serious breathing problems, he disclosed.
‘Within the last week, I have had colleagues warning of emergency departments and intensive care units being full, and that will only worsen in the coming weeks,’ added Scriven. Skeleton staffing’ of social care services over the festive period has meant patients who were medically fit to leave had not been able to get home from hospital, the capacity problems this will cause will be profound he added.
Hospitals’ ability to withstand a sudden increase in winter-related illness will also be compromised by the NHS being ‘horrendously understaffed’, Scriven said. Official figures show that the NHS in England has 103,000 vacancies, including for 42,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors.
Scriven’s comments came as NHS England revealed that almost 40,000 people so far this winter have had to spend at least 30 minutes with an ambulance crew because A&E units were too busy to accept them.