Seriously sick children are having to be transported long distances to receive intensive care this weekend because of a lack of beds in major cities.
In England, 85% of beds available in paediatric intensive care units were full on Friday night. But some units in cities including London and Leicester have been forced to declare themselves as “at capacity”. Planned operations are, in some cases, being delayed to prepare for any possible emergencies, as the system shows signs of serious strain as winter starts to bite.
The director of communications at NHS England, Simon Enright, tweeted: “It is true that the NHS is very busy at the moment – record demand.”
It has long been feared that this winter would expose the frailties of the health service. Last month, the cross-party health select committee, chaired by Tory MP Sarah Wollaston reported widespread concerns among medics at the beginning of December because they had already been struggling to deal with the level of demand.
As part of the NHS’s contingency preparations, every hospital trust was ordered to draw up plans to cope, with new “A&E delivery boards” to be set up. Thousands of non-emergency operations and appointments in the run-up to Christmas have been cancelled to enable doctors to concentrate on discharging patients who can safely be sent home, in an effort to free up beds. Official figures show 6,000 more A&E attendances daily compared with six years ago.
Yet last week it emerged that ambulance response times were declining in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and last night senior doctors said the problems in paediatrics were a sign of systemic problems.
Full story in The Guardian 3 December 2016