Yes, I am worried, admits Hunt as the NHS braces itself for winter...
Health supremo on a visit to the North East
HEALTH Secretary Jeremy Hunt has admitted he fears the NHS may not be prepared to cope with winter pressures, during a visit to the North.
He s said he was “worried” about how the service was prepared for the cold months while on a visit to Tyneside.
And he confessed there is “a lot more” to do to ensure we avoid a winter beds crisis crippling the service.
Mr Hunt spent two days visiting hospitals in the region as part of a national drive to improve patient safety.
At Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, he said: “I am worried, I don’t think we have done as many preparations as we need to. There is still time but there is a lot more work to do to get us ready for winter.”
Last month NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, told a conference the service should brace itself for a bad flu season after Australia and New Zealand experienced their worst outbreak in many years.
And Mr Hunt said: “Australia has had a very bad year for flu.
“We don’t know yet whether that’s going to transfer here but we need to be prepared.”
On what measures NHS trusts across the country should be taking, he said: “The most important thing is to make sure all staff have their flu jabs.
“You can have flu without showing any symptoms, so it’s easy for people to transmit it without realising.”
NHS managers have told the Government they need at least £200m in emergency funding to avoid a winter crisis.
The warning came from a body called NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, ambulance services and mental health trusts.
Chief executive, Chris Hopson, said: “NHS trusts are worried that they do not have enough staff, beds and other services to manage the risk to patient safety this winter.”
Last year saw the North East’s NHS experience its busiest festive period on record.
In the three-weeks after December 16 there were over 43,000 attendances at the region’s A&E departments, resulting in over 18,000 emergency admissions.
In the two weeks from December 22, 999 calls for an emergency ambulance rose from 1,039 a day, to 1,378 a day and peaked on New Year’s Day at 1,811.
The NHS in the region saw peaks in demand following the Bank Holiday periods with 4,813 major A&E attendances and 1,022 emergency admissions on December 27 and 28.
This was followed by a further peak after New Year with 4,418 major A&E attendances on January 3 and 4 and 1,024 emergency admissions.
During this busy period some of the biggest receiving A&E departments in the region called upon other trusts for help and support, with several ambulances diverted to other hospitals in the region at times of peak demand.