NHS confederation poll compounds fears of a difficult upcoming winter for the health service, with leaders urging the government to review the state of services.
The poll, which contacted 130 senior health and care leaders in England, shows that 92% are ‘concerned’ about the ability of the NHS to meet the demands of this winter, with 62% of these being ‘extremely concerned’.
Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, Niall Dickson, said: ‘Last year it was said that the service was ‘just about coping’, but for many of our members this year looks more challenging.
‘Not only is there the prospect of ongoing pressure, high bed occupancy, and delayed transfers of care blockages in flow, but the worry too of a serious flu attack combined with bad weather.’
Matters are being made worse due to fears of a bad flu season coming from Australia and New Zealand. Last year, despite mild weather and low levels of flu, A&E waiting times were among the worst on record and many are skeptical about the NHS’s ability to cope if this year proves to be worse.
Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: ‘Over the last two to three years we haven’t had to deal with any major outbreaks of infection such as norovirus or flu, but this year we are predicting a bad flu season that will overwhelm us after what we’ve witnessed in Australia and New Zealand.’
A report by the King’s Fund, which revealed falling numbers of nurses in the NHS, only serves to increase worries that the service will be understaffed and underprepared if winter is as intense as anticipated.
Richard Murray, author of the King’s Fund report, said that reducing numbers of nurses ‘means the NHS is less equipped to cope with the demands of a winter that was already threatening to stretch the NHS to the limit.’