Fears grow over renewed crisis in A&E this winter

Doctors and hospital managers have spoken of their serious fears for the lives of their patients as NHS accident and emergency wards stand on the brink of yet another winter crisis.

In a survey conducted by the NHS Confederation, the body which represents every part of the health service, senior staff said they believed the pressures on their wards will be even worse than last year’s difficult winter.

They warn that a 26% jump in admissions among those aged 85 and over in the last four years will cause major problems. Less half of respondents (45.7%) said their hospitals were likely to hit the target of 95% of patients waiting for under four hours before being treated in A&E wards over the next few months.

They add that a prolonged period of cold, a rapid increase in seriously ill patients arriving at A&E or a lengthy norovirus season would be “all it would take to bring many departments to breaking point”.

The NHS Confederation report, published on Sunday, said: “One of the starkest findings of our survey was that NHS leaders are seriously concerned about the impact of these pressures on patient safety and mortality.

“Many say the consequences of rising demand could mean a significant increase in cancelled elective surgery; longer waiting times for patients; less time for staff to discuss treatment plans with patients; and serious safety issues, including increased mortality.”

Health minister Anna Soubry said an extra £500m had already been set aside for A&E and promised further help. She said: “On Tuesday, we will be setting out exactly how we will be making sure services are fully equipped to deal with additional pressures this year and outlining longer-term changes for the future, including how to better support those with the greatest need – vulnerable older people.”

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