Struggling hospitals brace for further spike in demand during cold snap

Freezing temperatures across the UK risk plunging struggling hospitals into a deeper crisis as the NHS enters its busiest three weeks of the year, health bosses have said.

Hospitals are braced for a sudden spike in emergency admissions for broken limbs and chronic breathing problems. The organisation that represents hospital trusts in England said the NHS, already facing “winter all year round”, risked being plunged into an “Arctic winter” in the days ahead.

Almost 30 hospitals have issued black alerts this week after becoming so overloaded they cannot provide a normal range of services or guarantee patient safety. Some hospitals have been forced to use rehabilitation gyms and neurological wards for emergency beds, and others have cancelled operations.

The British Lung Foundation said the cold weather was already resulting in an increase in patients presenting with potentially fatal respiratory conditions. Worse weather is due over the next few days.

Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, the charity’s medical adviser and a consultant chest physician at London’s Royal Brompton hospital, said people with diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or who were undergoing cancer treatment could be at higher risk of developing pneumonia, given the temperatures. Elderly people and children could also be at particular risk, he added.

On Friday morning the NHS will publish data that is expected to reveal the extent of the strain hospitals were put under last week.

Full story in The Guardian 12 January 2017