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Eight hospitals-worth of beds opened this winter to cope with pressures


7 March 2017

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The number of temporary beds opened to cope with winter pressures on A&E this year was equivalent to eight additional hospitals, analysis by NHS Providers has found.

During the peak winter months, between December and February, 152 hospitals opened enough ‘escalation beds’ to fill eight hospitals and admitted at least 80 emergency patients each day.

The demand this winter has seen A&E targets to treat and discharge patients within four hours fall to record lows at 79.3% – well below the target of 95%.

The number of temporary beds opened to cope with winter pressures on A&E this year was equivalent to eight additional hospitals, analysis by NHS Providers has found.

During the peak winter months, between December and February, 152 hospitals opened enough ‘escalation beds’ to fill eight hospitals and admitted at least 80 emergency patients each day.

The demand this winter has seen A&E targets to treat and discharge patients within four hours fall to record lows at 79.3% – well below the target of 95%.

NHS Providers said that trust are operating at a capacity that is beyond what ‘other international health systems would regard as acceptable’.

The research found that bed occupancy rates peaked at 96% and have stayed above the recommended safe level of 85% for the three months.

In response, NHS Providers has called for a formal review, led by NHS England and NHS Improvement, of how the NHS manages winter pressures.

They have said the review should consider ring fencing funding and explore how improved GP access and social care can support the NHS over the winter.

Chris Hopson, chief executive for NHS Providers said: ‘Thanks to the heroic  efforts of front line staff the NHS has coped remarkably well in the face of a relentless rise in demand.

'But 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.

‘The situation is unsustainable, and we must plan now to ensure we don’t put staff and patients under such intolerable pressure next year.’

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said the research from NHS Provider is a ‘stark warning’.

He said: ‘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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