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Health Service winter ‘sit reps’ show dangerous and unacceptable situation – RCEM

21 December 2023

With dangerous and unacceptable hospital occupancy levels of more than 95% there is the real risk that patients will find no room at the Inn this Christmas.

That is the response from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine to the latest NHS England winter ‘Sit Reps’ which have been published today – 21 December 2023.

Covering the week 11 to 17 December the data shows:

  • 1% of hospital beds were occupied (In order to reach the ‘safe’ occupancy level of 85% almost 12,000 more beds would be needed)
  • There has been a sharp rise in the number of people needing hospitalisation for flu – a daily average of 617 people up from 384 the previous week (an increase of 60%)
  • The Government is still 2,155 beds short of meeting its target of adding 5,000 beds to the system this winter
  • Almost a third of ambulance handovers took more than 30 minutes – the target is less than 15 minutes.
  • Each day there were more than 12,500 patients who were still in hospital even though there were deemed fit to be discharged.

Responding to the statistics, Dr Adrian Boyle, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said: “Winter is truly here. The pressure the whole health service is experiencing is plain to see in this data.

“Our hospitals are very nearly full – and with a sharp increase in flu cases it may well be that there really is no room at the Inn this Christmas for many.

“While, we recognise the work done to increase bed numbers, it is just not enough. Winter comes every year and along with it the seasonal pressure of respiratory illness, flu and more recently Covid.

“Every year we offer practical and achievable ways to ease the pressure such as those in our #ResuscitateEmgergencyCare General Election Manifesto and our recently published Crowding Guidance. But yet here we are again with health care workers facing another extremely challenging few weeks and months.

“We raised these issues with the new Health Secretary Victoria Atkins MP at a meeting earlier this week and we will continue to advocate for urgent action.

“And given the additional pressure brought about by two periods of industrial action – it is certainly not going to be a merry Christmas or a happy new year for many patients and health care workers.”

Despite the issues Dr Boyle was keen to stress that anyone who does need emergency medical care over the coming week should still seek it. They will still receive the urgent care they require, but should be prepared for long waits.

He also reiterated his call for everyone who is eligible – especially those who work in healthcare – to get vaccinated against flu.

Graphs showing the year on year comparisons can be viewed here and the full analysis of the data is available on the RCEM website.

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