Health leaders have warned the crisis engulfing the NHS will last until Easter as senior doctors blame ministers for letting patients die needlessly through inaction.
More than a dozen trusts and ambulance services have declared major incidents in recent days, with soaring demand, rising flu and Covid cases and an overstretched workforce putting pressure on the health service.
But after warning that as many as 500 people could die each week due to delays in urgent care alone and as oxygen for seriously ill patients ran out in parts of England, NHS leaders warned that more chaos could be expected before April.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Federation, which represents health care across England and Wales, said: “It seems likely that the next three months will see more major events requiring announcements and quality of care being affected.” The health system and Northern Ireland.
Ministers are under increasing pressure to respond to the crisis. The British Medical Association (BMA) said the government’s “deafening” silence and inaction was a “political choice” that resulted in patients “dieing unnecessarily”.
The Liberal Democrats urged the government to recall parliament, while Labor accused the government of “mismanagement” for creating a sense of “danger” around the NHS.
Taylor said the situation had reached a crisis point: “Some of our members have said their ward staff numbers are now below minimum levels as they work to build more upgraded space to support the arrival of ambulances and they have encountered them Oxygen cylinders have temporarily run out, and some of their patients have been waiting for more than two days for a bed.
“High rates of flu and Covid have more than doubled, persistent problems with delayed discharges have left more than 12,000 patients in good health trapped in hospital, and the aftershocks of industrial action are exacerbating the chronic problem of more than 130,000 NHS job vacancies, A decade-long underinvestment in capital and a backlog of electives continues to exceed 7 million students.”
As Taylor spoke, thousands of paramedics, nurses and doctors prepared to strike over pay and conditions. Ambulance workers will strike from January 11-23, while nurses will strike from January 18-19. Voting for England’s junior doctors on industrial action will open on January 9.
The crisis intensifies as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) warns families that flu, Covid-19 and scarlet fever are at high levels as children return to education and nursery.
Professor Susan Hopkins, UKHSA Chief Medical Adviser, said: “If your child is unwell and has a fever, they should stay at home and not attend school or nursery until they feel better and their fever is gone.”
On Monday, Education Secretary Robert Halfon claimed Rishi Sunak had made the crisis his “top priority”, but the prime minister and his health secretary, Steve Barclay (Steve Barclay) did not choose to comment.
BMA chair Professor Philip Banfield said: “It would be disingenuous for the prime minister to talk about ‘supporting the NHS’ in his New Year’s address, while his own health secretary fails to discuss how to resolve this crisis.”
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said he found it “utterly inexplicable” why neither Sunak nor Barclay “had raised their heads or shown up and said exactly what they were doing to deal with the crisis”. crisis, and to support patients and those staff who are working in unbearable conditions and doing their best under the most extraordinary pressures”.
Taylor said while the ambulance service and emergency services appeared to be bearing the brunt, the whole NHS was now under enormous pressure.
“While secondary care may be where these challenges are most evident, all parts of the NHS, including primary, community and mental health care, are under enormous pressure.”
Taylor added that the current burden was so high that it was also undermining efforts to tackle a huge backlog of surgeries and surgeries, which had ballooned to seven million in England alone.
NHS England is expected to report on Tuesday that a record number of cancer patients were treated last year, but waiting lists were also the longest ever.
“The current situation in the NHS is intolerable and unsustainable, both for our patients and for our hard-working staff who are desperately trying to meet the incredibly high levels of demand,” Banfield said.
“The BMA has repeatedly invited the government to sit down and talk about the pressure on our health service, but their silence has been deafening.”
At NHS England chief strategy officer Chris Hopson claimed not to “recognize” that estimate.
Banfield said it was clear that patients were dying needlessly because of the state of health care delivery.
“The government should fulfill its duty to the public. This is a political choice, and patients are dying unnecessarily because of it,” he said.
“The government must step up and act now. Without intervention, waiting lists will continue to grow, patients will continue to suffer and staff will continue to leave.”
Lib Dem health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper said: “This is a life-or-death situation for a large number of patients. The NHS is collapsing before our eyes and the Prime Minister and Health Minister are nowhere to be seen.
“This is a national crisis and the country will never forgive the government if it refuses to recall Parliament while hundreds of people are dying parked in ambulances or hospital corridors.”