There are grave doubts over the National Health Service’s capacity to cope with ever-growing demand this winter after emergency departments recorded their worst week in a decade, and more than a dozen hospitals were forced to implement “major incident” emergency plans.
Despite mild weather and without a serious outbreak of seasonal illness, this week at least 15 hospitals in England have had to cancel operations, call in extra staff or limit A&E services to only severely ill or injured patients.
The Government has blamed the drastic decline in hospital performance on growing numbers of frail, older patients, but charities supporting the elderly, including Age UK and Independent Age, said that cuts to council care budgets were now having a knock-on effect upon the NHS.
The warnings came as:
* Latest NHS England figures showed that 92.6 per cent of patients were seen in four hours at England’s A&Es and minor injury units from October to December 2014 – below the 95 per cent target and the worst performance in a decade.
*Only 83.1 per cent of patients were seen in four hours at major A&Es in the week before Christmas – the worst week on record.
*12 hospitals in England declared major incidents, and three others significant incidents, because of pressures on A&E and bed capacity
* Hospitals and ambulance services had to take drastic measures to meet demand. South Western Ambulance Services erected a temporary treatment tent in the grounds of Great Western Hospital in Swindon as a “precautionary measure”, and a fire engine was used to transport a patient to hospital in York.
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