Another winter freeze hits Britain, another winter crisis looms in the National Health Service. Hospitals are cancelling outpatient appointments and diverting ambulances as they struggle to meet demand. This is more than just a short-term seasonal crunch. About a third of NHS trusts declared themselves under serious pressure last month before the winter had even begun. Hospitals are slipping ever farther behind their target for waiting times in accident and emergency. A rise in “delayed discharges” — people forced to stay in hospital because of cuts to local authority budgets for social care — is a huge source of strain.
Theresa May has brushed aside warnings of an impending crisis and rejected suggestions that services are underfunded. She acknowledged hospitals were treating more patients than ever but argued that the acute problem of delayed discharges could be solved by spreading “best practice” and said the health service had received more money than it had asked for — a claim vigorously disputed by Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England. This is dangerous insouciance. When the alert is sounded by strictly apolitical organisations such as the Red Cross, and echoed by figures such as Mr Stevens — a trusted adviser to both Labour and Conservative governments — the prime minister should be listening. There should certainly be no attempt to dislodge Mr Stevens for his candour.
Full story in The Financial Times 12 January 2017