Medical Negligence

Hospitals ‘unprepared for next six months’

Estimated read time: 3 mins

Carrie Tennick, October 15, 2020

UK hospitals are not prepared to cope effectively over the next six months, say three quarters of medical professionals working in urgent and acute care.

Just under three quarters (70%) added that they will be unable to provide the level of care they would want to over that period.

This is according to a survey carried out by the Society for Acute Medicine.

NHS at ‘tipping point’

Dr Nick Scriven, the past president of the society, said the NHS was already at a “tipping point” with rising Covid-19 admissions. He said that was “before we get anywhere near the routine challenges of winter” such as flu, norovirus and other respiratory illnesses.

He warned that acute medical units were at risk, despite their significant role in reducing pressures on A&E departments.

The survey also found that medics were concerned about same day emergency care (SDEC) units. These have been designed to provide urgent care without the need for overnight admission to hospital.

Just one third (34%) of the professionals surveyed said these units were functioning effectively.

The reasons for these concerns were reduced beds because of social distancing, admitted patients occupying beds, reduced staff numbers due to redeployment and illness, and access to diagnostics.

Greater pressures

Dr Scriven explained: “Acute medical units have been at the forefront of looking after probably the majority of those hospitalised with Covid-19, including delivering advanced respiratory care, so the views of our members are deeply concerning.

“Despite the above, all of this work was carried out with 30% of our teams – mostly skilled nurses but also doctors – redeployed to other clinical areas due to their high-level skills around emergency/urgent care and specialist patient support.”

He went on to say that with the “ongoing Covid work and rising rates,” many of these medics have not returned to their base units. This has led to the NHS’s “front door workforce” being put under greater pressures.

Dr Scriven called for funding to help SDEC units become Covid-safe. He said with a 5% increase in patient numbers, these units being open seven days a week could “help save 14,000 overnight admissions over winter”.

Hospitals limiting operations

The Society for Acute Medicine survey comes as Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital has suspended blood cancer transplants after three patients tested positive for coronavirus.

Meanwhile, University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust said it has stopped non-critical operations at its Derriford Hospital. But it explained that it will still proceed with day procedures.

The Belfast Health Trust has also cancelled all elective surgeries this week to help its staff deal with the rising number of patients admitted for Covid-19. The city’s Nightingale hospital has also been re-opened to deal with cases of the virus, while other Nightingale facilities around the country have been put on standby.

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