NHS rejects claims of ‘humanitarian crisis’ in England’s hospitals
The NHS has disputed claims from the Red Cross that there is a “humanitarian crisis” in its hospitals in England.
One of NHS England’s specialist directors said he thought the service was not “at that point” of crisis, but admitted demand was higher than ever.
The Red Cross helps some hospitals with patient transport and provides care for patients who have returned home.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn urged Theresa May to tell MPs how she would fix the “national scandal” of the NHS.
Mr Corbyn said: “The fact is, this government have repeatedly failed to put the necessary resources into our health service, while they have cut social care and wasted billions on a top-down reorganisation to accelerate privatisation.”
The Labour leader said he was “demanding” that Theresa May appeared at the Commons on Monday to explain “how she plans to fix her failure on the NHS”.
It comes as a third of hospital trusts in England warned they needed action to cope with patient numbers last month.
Figures show that 42 A&E departments ordered ambulances to divert to other hospitals last week – double the number during the same period in 2015.
Diversions can only happen when a department is under significant pressure, such as lacking the capacity to take more patients or having queues of ambulances outside for significantly prolonged periods, and when all existing plans to deal with a surge in patients have been unsuccessful.
Image caption The British Red Cross provided support to staff at the East Midlands Ambulance Service
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said staff were under intense pressure, while the Society for Acute Medicine warned this month could be the worst January the NHS had ever faced.
Its president, Dr Mark Holland, said that the term “humanitarian crisis” was strong, but “not a million miles away from the truth”.
He said: “We have been predicting that we would face a winter from hell. I think that time has arrived.”
Professor Keith Willett, medical director for acute care at NHS England, said he did not think the service was at the level of a humanitarian crisis, but admitted demand was at its highest level ever and staff were under “a level of pressure we haven’t seen before”.
Speaking to BBC News, he would not answer whether the government was taking reforms to social care of patients returned from hospital seriously, but said that was where future investment needed to go.
“We have to transform and modernise the way the NHS works and we do have to move much more care into the community where it is much more appropriate, particularly for the elders in our society,” he said.
Chief executive Mike Adamson said: “The British Red Cross is on the front line, responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country.
“We have been called in to support the NHS and help get people home from hospital and free up much needed beds.
“We’ve seen people sent home without clothes; some suffer falls and are not found for days, while others are not washed because there is no carer there to help them.”
He said that if people did not get the care they needed “they will simply end up returning to A&E, and the cycle begins again”.