Reports have indicated that bed occupancy in acute trusts has already raised winter levels.
The unusually high bed occupancy rates have left chief executives in acute trusts concerned with winter provisions.
Typically demand for beds in hospitals rises at this time of the year.
Senior figures in the acute service have already warned that existing occupancy levels are extremely serious.
Based on current reports from the acute trust, at least 50 patients every day have been admitted who are medically fit for discharge and consequently cannot be discharged.
Bosses have admitted that this is a massive problem, yes there is no evidence of the NHS making inroads into the issue.
And chief executives from acute trusts have stated that winter schemes have been running throughout the year without making an impression on the situation.
This is yet another indication that the NHS is struggling to cope with demand, and underlines many of the debates currently occurring with regard to the health service.
Some trusts have already had to open extra beds in order to cope with existing admission levels, indicating that they will potentially be massive problems during the winter period.
Existing levels of admissions are generally considered to be in line with December and January figures from previous years.
James Paget University Hospital Trust recently sent out a ‘black alert’ because all of its beds were full.
The picture across acute trusts in the NHS suggests that the recent plans of the Conservative government to switch to a seven-day culture in the health service could be under serious threat.
Indeed, it seems increasingly facile to assert that the health service is already struggling to deal with capacity simply related to its existing arrangements.
Meanwhile, the closure of care homes follows inspections by the Care Quality Commission, with more than one trust struggling to move patients out of hospital.
The overall picture is one of serious challenges for the NHS in dealing with the critical winter period.
Many acute trusts are already reporting occupancy of 99 per cent, meaning that the normal seasonal service that can be expected in winter will be extremely difficult to cope with.
The closure of services at various trusts, longer lengths of stay for those awaiting nursing homes and social care, combined with increasing complexity of diagnosis and treatment have all contributed to the existing situation.
With NHS services expected to run up deficits in the region of £2 billion by the end of the financial year, the lack of beds combined with serious fiscal difficulties will unquestionably be a massive problem for the health service in the immediate future.
The Conservative government has already conceded that there is a deficit of £30 billion in NHS funding that needs to be met by the end of the decade, but suggest that most of this can be achieved via efficiency savings.
Increasingly, this opinion looks to be ill-founded at best.
A new campaign has been launched calling for an increase in mental health spending. And numerous notable individuals have been recruited in order to assist the prominence of the initiative.
Over 200 celebrities have backed the campaign, which suggests that the severity and prominence of mental health difficulties mean that they must receive more priority.
The scheme was launched by former mental health minister Norman Lamb, Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell and former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell.
Recently, the government increased overall mental health funding to £11.7 billion annually.
Yet there are still question marks regarding access to treatment for people with mental ill health, and there is still often considered to be a deficit between the way that mental health and physical problems are treated.
The NHS has officially indicated that the standard of care for the mentally ill should be equal to the physically injured.
This new scheme was agreed back in 2012, and in accordance with this initiative, the government pledged an extra £1.25 billion to be invested in mental health over the next five years.
Often there can be inequality in the standards of care that mentally ill and physically injured people receive, and the campaign suggests that the efforts to plug this gap have not been sufficient.
Access to treatment is a particular issue, with 75 percent of mentally ill children receiving treatment whatsoever.
It is particularly chilling to know that the life expectancy of people with mental health difficulties is 20 years less than for the population as a whole.
Comedian Frank Skinner, former footballer Ian Wright and presenter Graham Norton are among the high profile names to back the campaign.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of the charity Mind, indicated his intention to back the initiative.
“When people don’t get the right help at the right time, the risk is that they become more unwell and need more intensive – and expensive – treatment further down the line. The cost is estimated at billions of pounds a year in “loss of work, in payment of benefits, and the impact on families,” Farmer asserted.
Defending the position of the government, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested that the Conservative party had invested more money in mental health than any previous governments.
“We have made great strides in the way that we think about, and treat, mental health in this country. Whether it is our talking therapies reaching more than three million people, the police working with mental health nurses to aid those in crisis, or school counsellors helping young people with eating disorders, we are making good progress.”
About a quarter of the population will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year, with mixed anxiety and depression the most common mental disorders in Britain.
The chief executive of NHS England has announced a new vanguard model that is crucial to the future of the health service.
Simon Stevens has unveiled the radical new scheme that will have a significant impact on local hospitals across the NHS network.
Thirteen new hospital vanguards will be created as a result of the new model, which represents a new and distinct phase in implementing the well-publicised NHS Five Year Forward View.
These 13 hospitals will become Acute Care Collaboration Vanguards.
Acute Care Collaboration Vanguards are intended to act as beacons of excellence in hospital services and management, while serving a wide geographical region.
Thirty-seven Vanguard hospitals had been launched previously, but the focus of these establishments had been significantly different from this new acute care-focused raft.
The existing vanguards were mostly focused on integrating care between GPs, social and community care, mental health and hospital services within their local area.
Hospitals nominated to join this new programme represent some of the most notable and efficiently run institutions in British healthcare.
They include The Royal Marsden, Northumbria Healthcare Trust, the Christie, the Royal Free London, Moorfields, Salford Royal, and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Each of these establishments will now be extending their geographical reach, playing a major role in driving inefficiency and improvement in the NHS.
Now that these new Vanguard institutions have been named, each will test three new approaches in response to ideas of full report on proposed by frontline clinicians and managers.
– Excellently-performing individual NHS hospitals able to form NHS Foundation Groups to raise standards across a chain of hospitals.
– Individual clinical services at local District General Hospitals being run on site by specialists from regional centres of excellence.
– Forming ‘accountable clinical networks’ integrating care across District General Hospitals and teaching hospitals for key services, including cancer and mental health.
Speaking to the Confederation of British Industry in London, Stevens had the following to say on the matter.
“The era of go-it-alone individual hospitals is now being superceded by more integrated care partnerships – both within local areas, and across different parts of the country. The scale of the interest in these new vanguards from across the health service shows the NHS is up for radical reform.
“Our new approach to hospital partnerships will help sustain the viability of local hospitals, share clinical and management expertise across geographies, and drive efficiency beyond the walls of individual institutions.
“We’ve got some of the world’s best hospitals and specialists in this country, and it’s right they should be able to extend their reach more widely, as the vanguard programme will now allow them to do.”
Ed Smith, Chair of Monitor and the new Chair-designate of NHS Improvement, added: “Today’s new vanguards represent the evolution from the era of standalone hospitals, begun in the 1962 Hospital Plan for England, and reinforced by the creation of foundation trusts in the early 2000s. These were right at the time, but the economic and clinical circumstances facing the NHS are now different, and our response needs to evolve.”