Hospitals Provided 4,500 Extra Beds Daily at Height of Winter Crisis

NHS bosses have revealed that hospitals provided around 4,500 extra bed every day during the height of this year’s winter troubles.

This process prevented a full-blown crisis according to a report published by NHS Providers.

The number of beds delivered during this period is the equivalent of creating eight additional hospitals in order to cope with the unprecedented demand.

During this period it was common for Accident and Emergency to experience major difficulties, while many patients were also trapped on trolleys or stuck within ambulances.

The NHS in England came under such intense pressure that patients found hospitals “distressing and potentially dangerous”, NHS Providers concludes.

Analysis of NHS England data conducted by the organisation, particularly focusing on the months of December, January and February, indicates that it was necessary within the system for dozens of beds to be escalated at short notice.

Some hospitals even resorted to utilising rehabilitation gyms and other areas not designed for patients.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, is in no doubt of the seriousness of the allegations contained within this report.

“This has been the busiest winter ever for the NHS. Be in no doubt, these figures show a system running hot and – in particular times and places – overwhelmed by the demands placed on it, risking patient safety.”

In the busiest weeks during the winter period it was necessary for the NHS to open up in excess of 32,000 additional beds.

While was also noted that patients had to be diverted from one Accident and Emergency unit to another on 476 occasions during the winter, which was almost double the same figure last year.

Deborah Gulliver, a senior research analyst with NHS Providers, outlined the severity of the current climate.

“As pressure continues to grow, the likelihood of more trusts reaching and moving beyond breaking point increases. For patients these difficulties are distressing and potentially dangerous. They are also demotivating and demoralising for the clinical workforce. It is thanks to the extraordinary efforts of frontline staff that we have made it through this winter period without a full-blown crisis. However, trusts are telling us that it was a close-run thing.”

With bed occupancy rates at 96%, well above the advised 85% level, Gulliver is certain that the situation is symptomatic of systematic failings.

“So the resilience of trusts to deal with unexpected spikes in pressure, such as flu outbreaks and norovirus, is compromised. We cannot afford to ride our luck indefinitely,” Gulliver commented.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, called on the government to act rapidly.

“This stark warning from NHS Providers makes clear this has been an NHS winter like never before. Theresa May’s refusal to take seriously the twin threat of NHS underfunding and rising demand has pushed services to the brink. The direct result of the prime minister’s stubbornness has been a collapse in standards of patient care, with the worst performance on record for A&E and most hospitals dangerously overcrowded.”


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