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A third of trusts faced ‘major pressures’ in December


9 January 2017

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The extent of the winter pressures facing NHS trusts have led a third to declare a major incident to NHS England.

According to analysis of national data by the Nuffield Trust, 50 of 152 trusts declared an OPEL 3 or 4, meaning the pressures are impacting patient care.

Seven of the fifty trusts declared an OPEL 4, which is the highest escalation level and means an organisation is “unable to deliver comprehensive care” with an “increased potential” for patient safety to be at risk.

The extent of the winter pressures facing NHS trusts have led a third to declare a major incident to NHS England.

According to analysis of national data by the Nuffield Trust, 50 of 152 trusts declared an OPEL 3 or 4, meaning the pressures are impacting patient care.

Seven of the fifty trusts declared an OPEL 4, which is the highest escalation level and means an organisation is “unable to deliver comprehensive care” with an “increased potential” for patient safety to be at risk.

If multiple organisations declare an OPEL 4 to long periods, national action could be considered.

Trusts declared a total of 201 OPEL 3 or 4 between 1 and 27 December, of which 15 were level four.

The OPEL system was introduced since December 2015 when 105 trusts declared “serious operational problems” which is equivalent to levels 3 and 4.

In a blog post, Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said: “The real pressures usually start to show as winter gets into full swing later this month.

“But an early look at the OPEL data shows that winter is most certainly here and already tough across the NHS.

“Time will tell whether trusts are able to manage the considerable pressures under which they are operating. We will be watching the OPEL data closely.”

According to the data the worst day for winter pressures was Tuesday 13 December, when 23 trusts declared high level crises.

The Health Select Committee predicted in November that NHS services would face an intensity of winter pressure that is “unprecedented”.

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