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NHS hospitals will be ‘sorely tested’ this winter

Hospitals are already running out of beds and some are currently 99 per cent occupied, health experts warn.

Although they were ordered to free-up thousands of beds ahead of winter, many failed to meet their targets.

The chief executives of two major hospitals have admitted their bed occupancy rates are 98 per cent and 99 per cent respectively.

The NHS is bracing itself for an extremely busy winter and officials are particularly worried about the prospect of a severe flu outbreak.

The chief executives of two major hospitals have admitted their bed occupancy rates are 98 per cent and 99 per cent respectively

They are expecting an aggressive strain of the virus to begin circulating within the next few weeks which mostly affects the elderly and young children.

The same strain wreaked havoc in Australia and led to one of the worst-ever flu seasons, with a record number of hospital admissions.

NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, said the health service would be ‘sorely tested’ over the next few weeks.

Two anonymous hospital chief executives told the organisation that their beds were already 98 per cent and 99 per cent occupied.

The same executives said that 11 per cent of their beds were taken up by ‘bedblocking’ patients who are medically well enough to go home.

A 156,000-STRONG ARMY OF VOLUNTEERS

The NHS is looking to draft a 156,000-strong army of volunteers to work in hospitals to take the pressure of over-stretched nurses and doctors.

Health bosses, working alongside HelpForce, are desperately trying to erase the widely publicised bedblocking crisis under a pilot scheme.

The ‘community interest company’ will draft in volunteers to fetch medicines, feed patients, drive them home from hospital and even take them to a supermarket.

Volunteers at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust will be given bleepers so they can be summoned to help with tasks, The Times reports.

Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, chairman of the trust and founder of HelpForce, said doubling the number of volunteers from 78,000 was required to help hospitals cope.

He continued: ‘NHS staff deliver brilliant medical care but both the system and our frontline teams are under intense pressure.’ 

Many of these patients are elderly and cannot be discharged as care has not been set up in their home or a place allocated for them in residential care.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers said: ‘Winter always presents a big challenge to the NHS.

‘Last year the pressures were intolerable. Services were stretched up to, and in some places beyond, breaking point.

‘We cannot say with certainty how tough this winter will be, but the likelihood is that services will be sorely tested.

‘We must hope the considerable efforts to curb the impact of flu are successful.

‘What we can say with confidence is that NHS trusts have prepared for the challenge and will do all they can to provide high quality care for every patient, whatever the pressure.’

Last month hospitals were given an extra £335 million as part of the Budget to help manage winter pressures.

They will be expected to use their share of the money by paying for extra staff in A&E, including GPs who can assess patients on arrival.

Back in September the head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, urged hospitals to make special preparations in anticipation of a very severe flu outbreak.

They were urged to free up between 2,500 and 3000 beds collectively by working with local councils to enable patients to be discharged home more quickly.



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk