NHS under more pressure now than at peak of Covid, doctors warn, with ‘hundreds dying each week’ due to delays

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 A leading doctor said that ‘300 to 500’ people are dying every day due to delays in emergency care, as the NHS hits crisis point.

The NHS is currently dealing with more pressure than it was at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, a leading doctor has warned. Another has said that ‘300 to 500’ people are ‘dying every week’ due to delays in emergency care.

Speaking to Sky News, Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said there had “never been a greater recognition amongst all staff” that the current situation was “worse than it has ever been”.

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He added: “I know that people watching this will say, ‘well every winter you have doctors on that say that this winter is terrible, that it’s normal winter pressures’. But there is a complete acceptance from all colleagues now that this is different from all previous winters - and we need urgent action now."

"This situation is much worse than we experienced under the Covid pandemic at its peak. And so we need to think carefully about how we can manage this and I think we need some urgent actions.”

At least six hospital trusts have declared critical incidents, which are usually sounded when an NHS trust is dealing with extraordinary pressure. The trusts are located in:

  • Staffordshire
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Isle of Wight 
  • Nottingham 
  • Derbyshire
  • Dorset

Meanwhile, more than 55 NHS trusts have stated they are struggling to cope with demand for their services. Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said that rocketing cases of flu mean that bed occupancy is at a “record level”, adding that “between 300 and 500 people are dying each week” because of delays in emergency care.

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It comes after nurses went on strike in a dispute over pay and conditions for two days in December. Paramedics also went on strike in December, with more strikes threatened by unions to take place in January should an agreement with the government not be reached.  The British Medical Association has now said it will ballot junior doctors this month.

Ambulances parked outside Manchester Royal Infirmary on December 21, 2022.Ambulances parked outside Manchester Royal Infirmary on December 21, 2022.
Ambulances parked outside Manchester Royal Infirmary on December 21, 2022. | Getty Images

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Government minister Robert Halfon admitted more needed to be done, but defended the government’s response to pressures on the NHS.

He said: "I’m absolutely clear that the prime minister treats this as a top priority. We’re increasing the NHS capacity by the equivalent of 7,000 beds, spending an extra £500 million to speed up hospital discharge and improve capacity."

"The government is putting in a lot of funding and doing everything possible. We know, of course, that many of these problems have been caused by the pandemic and the pressures on the NHS that we’ve seen over the past few years."

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