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Winter pressures pushing NHS to the brink, warns RCEM

1 February 2024

Additional seasonal pressures are pushing the NHS to the brink warns The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM).

New data released today (1 February 2024) reveals the levels of pressure being experienced by the service, with 95% of hospital beds full last week. That is 10% above the level considered to be ‘safe’, and an increase on last week.

The figures – which cover (22-28 January 2024) – also show worrying delays in ambulance handovers and increases in the number of patients experiencing extended stays in hospital and long waits to be discharged once they are well enough to go home.

Responding, Dr Ian Higginson, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “The data shows that the whole system is operating at the very edge of its capacity and capability. And as we know, A&Es and their ambulance parking areas are where the problems are the most visible.

“Although on the rise, flu hasn’t added as much pressure as we experienced this time last year, which is just as well since with our hospitals full and staff chronically exhausted, we are beyond having any room for manoeuvre.

“Many hospitals have declared critical incidents – if this is not a red flag, what is?

“Every warning light is flashing. It’s hard to understand why this isn’t as obvious to those in charge, as it is to those working in the NHS, and to those using its services.

“This week it is the anniversary of the publication of the Urgent and Emergency Care Recover plan. It didn’t go far enough and has not had a significant impact on our overcrowded A&Es.

“Our members remain under immense pressure, and the public are being let down and put at risk. The government and NHSE need to take notice and work out how to get the resources needed in place, before too many of our staff, and too much of our system, simply collapse.”


Today’s data release shows:

• Daily average bed occupancy stood at 95% (an additional 12,017 beds would be required to bring bed occupancy down to “safe levels” (85%.)
• This is up 0.5% points compared to last week and 0.9% points compared to last year.
• A daily average of 49,117 patients occupied a bed for more than seven days, the highest for week 11 since SitReps began.
• More than half of patients (56.6%) who were considered well enough to go home, remained in hospital.
• On average 4,783 hours were lost each day due to ambulance handover delays, which is 17% higher than the week before (15-21 January.)

You can see graphical representations and the full Sitrep data on RCEM’s website.

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