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NHS Hospital chiefs from various hospitals across the country are warning that this winter could be the toughest yet as a lack of funding means that many hospitals are unable to cope with demand.
NHS Providers, which represent NHS chief executives, is calling for the urgent provision of £200 to £350 million in order for hospitals to be able to manage the forthcoming patient safety risk. They also state that despite last winter being acknowledged as the toughest on record for the NHS, hospitals are on a trajectory towards, at best a similar, but more likely worse, performance this coming winter.
It goes without saying that the winter months are the busiest for the hospitals across the country and NHS England state that extra efforts have been put into place to avert the scenes experienced by hospitals around the country last year, whereby long waiting times, insufficient bed capacity and increased patient demand led the British Red Cross to declare a humanitarian crisis. In these circumstances where patient care may have been compromised it may be appropriate for them to seek compensation through a hospital negligence claim.
This latest news comes as hospitals failed to meet waiting time targets over the summer. Just over 90% of A&E patients were treated or admitted within four hours – which is below the goal of 95%, meaning the targets have been missed for two years in a row.
Bed shortage remains a key issue across the hospitals, leading the government to review this with particular emphasis on reducing the number of beds occupied by patients that are fit to leave but cannot be discharged by the hospital. It was hoped that these patients would only account for 3.5% of beds by the end of August, however, the figure remained at 5.2% by the end of June – showing a minimal reduction when compared to the end of 2016 whereby 5.6% of beds were occupied by such patients.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers stated:
“It could be even worse than last year, when there were far too many patients waiting more than 12 hours on a trolley or in the back of an ambulance to be seen. We were running much greater levels of risk to patient safety than we had had for at least a decade and we don’t want to see that level of risk again…. If that does happen, it could result in patients having dreadful experiences. If people are ill, they need to be seen quickly or their condition gets worse or ultimately they die prematurely. Waiting unduly long can mean patients getting much iller than they should be and dying when they don’t need to.”
Medical negligence solicitors, Blackwater Law are particularly concerned by these latest reports as they have experienced firsthand the devastating consequences that an overstretched health service can have on patient care. The grave situation that many hospitals may face themselves in this coming winter may lead to an increase in patients pursuing medical negligence claims due to substandard care.