Experts have increased their warnings that hospitals will be turning away ambulances due to overcrowding. From statistics released by NHS England, the first week of winter showed that 95% of hospital beds were already full. Anything above 85% is considered unsafe by the NHS. This classification is considered in the ‘red zone’ and that there is a risk to care.
In data from the first week of December 2018, showed there eight accident and emergency departments across the UK had diverted ambulance crews, due to the fact that they were so busy. Even ambulances which were able to drop their patients off at the right hospital, many of these ambulances and patients faced significant delays because they were so busy.
The handover process between ambulance crews and A&E staff is meant to take place within 15 minutes of arrival. However, in December, one in nine cases took more than 30 minutes to complete the handover process. In response to the delays, an NHS England spokesperson said that staff were working hard to keep up with the demand and pressure they are facing.
The NHS England spokesperson said; “The public can also help NHS staff by making sure they have their free flu jab if eligible and by using NHS 111 as their first port of call for non-emergencies.”
The pressure on the NHS is increasing. In fact, it has been over a year since the NHS has achieved any of its three targets across any part of the UK. These targets include time for cancer care, hospital operations and A&E waiting times.
While the government announced extra funding for the NHS to reduce the pressure and enable teams to meet their targets, frontline workers will not receive the funding until next year. The Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth says of the winter pressure; “Winter is only just beginning for our NHS, and these are hugely concerning figures that don’t bode well for the difficult weeks ahead.”