The health secretary blamed high flu cases, COVID and fears over strep A for the “massive pressure” the NHS faced over the festive period.
Several trusts have announced critical incidents in the last few daysand ambulances have waited hours outside hospitals to transfer their patients, as the government faces growing doubts about what it will do to address the winter crisis.
When asked if the situation was acceptable, Steve Barclay said “no” but put it down to “a combination of very high rates of flu, persistent high levels of COVID, ongoing concerns particularly among many parents around strep A.” such as primary care services, such as GPs, closed for Christmas.
His comments came after several health leaders raised concerns about the “intolerable and unbearable” state of the NHS.
Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the so-called “twin demic” of influenza and COVID was a contributing factor, but added: “The fundamental problem remains a significant labor shortage that leads to woefully inadequate inpatient beds and social services.” capacity of attention.
“Current levels of staff burnout and low morale markedly exacerbate this problem.”
Earlier, the prime minister’s official spokesman said the government had been “frank with the public long before this winter” that it would be “extremely challenging” on the NHS due to the fallout from the pandemic and the backlog of cases. brought to.
But Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said it was “untrue to blame the pandemic for the current situation”, adding: “The structural problems were there long before.”
Critical incidents in England
Sky News analysis has found critical incidents announced in 19 areas of the country over the past week:
– NHS Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire
-NHS Birmingham and Solihull
– NHS Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and West Berkshire
-NHS Cheshire and Merseyside
– NHS Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
– NHS Derby and Derbyshire
– NHS Greater Manchester
– NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight
– NHS Humber and North Yorkshire
– NHS Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland
– Lincolnshire National Health Service
– Northamptonshire National Health Service
– NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire
-NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin
– NHS Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
– Surrey National Health Center
– Sussex National Health Service
It is not yet known if any of these areas have withdrawn their critical incidents.
Barclay said he had held meetings today and over the holidays with England’s NHS to review their operational plans, with a particular focus on tackling “late discharges” – those people in hospital beds who are fit enough to go to hospital. House.
“That’s what we have to address,” he said. “Because we need to get more flow into the hospital system to free up that backend so that ambulances can speed up their delivery times and get people out.”
But when asked about comments made by Dr. Boyle earlier this week alleging that A&E delays could be causing 500 deaths a week, the health secretary once again blamed the pandemic, pointing to delays in operations and people “more reluctant to go see their GPs” during lockdown, leading to more serious cases now occurring.
Pressed on the issue of openings and why he wouldn’t approve higher pay increases for nurses, one of the issues leading to two more strikes planned this month – Barclay said the government was “focusing funding on operational delays” and “pushing” services to free up beds.
However, he said the new funds would “take time” to enter the system.
Opposition parties have criticized the government for its inaction in recent days, and Liberal Democrats have called for parliament to withdraw to discuss the situation.
The Labor Party’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, also accused the Conservatives of “mismanaging” the NHS.