• Friday, September 30, 2022

UK News

NHS to boost capacity ahead of winter

By: ShelbinMS

The NHS started boosting capacity by increasing bed availability and staff ahead of winter, a statement said on Friday (12).

Around 7,000 more beds will be added and initiatives to improve patient flow will also be started in the coming months.

The NHS said that there will be at least 4,800 staff working in 111 and 2,500 in 999 call rooms to deal with higher demand. The additional capacity in 999 will help staff meet record demand, with a live call answer dashboard and a target to answer calls in an average of 10 seconds.

Recent data revealed that only 40 per cent of patients were able to visit hospital when they were ready to in July.

Extensive planning is already underway for an autumn covid-19 booster programme as well as the annual flu campaign, the NHS statement added.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director said: “Winter is always a busy period for the NHS, and this is the first winter where we are likely to see combined pressures from covid and flu, so it is right that we prepare as early as we can for the additional demand that we know we will face.

“Staff are already under pressure with continued high demand for our services – with figures showing the busiest summer ever for NHS emergency departments, with 2.18 million A&E attendances and almost 900,000 999 calls answered in June, and in July the highest number of category 1 ambulance callouts since records began.

“Ahead of the winter, we want to make sure we are doing everything we possibly can to free up capacity so that staff can ensure patients get the care they need – this includes timely discharge, working with social care, and better support in the community with the expansion of virtual wards.”

An extra £10 million in funding for mental health services has been provided to deal with record demand throughout the winter and mental health professionals will be deployed in 999 call centres.

Besides, GP services will be supported through the recruitment of extra social prescribing link workers and health and wellbeing coaches to support patients, the statement added.

Official NHS figures showed that despite the heatwave in July, NHS staff dealt with more than 85,000 (85,397) category 1 ambulance callouts – the highest number since records began and almost two-thirds higher than in July 2020 (51,771).

That is also a third higher than pre-pandemic, with 23,610 more of the most serious incidents than in July 2019.

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: “By increasing capacity, boosting NHS 111 and 999 support, tackling delayed discharge and using new innovations such as virtual wards, we can help patients get the care they need when they need it.

“Alongside this, I have launched a task force to drive up the recruitment of international staff into critical roles across the system, while we recruit and retain more doctors and nurses, so we can continue our work of busting the covid backlogs, having now virtually eliminated waits of over two years as part of our Elective Recovery Plan – backed by record investment”.

Earlier this week, the NHS announced it had virtually eliminated two-year waits for elective care before the end of July.

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