Winter pressure in the NHS will not let up until Easter at the earliest, the Society of Acute Medicine has said.
The health service was “brought to its knees” over the colder months, according to the society, which represents hospital specialists in acute medicine.
Its president Dr Nick Scriven who is based in Calderdale said that recent winters have been getting “progressively worse” for the NHS.
“With the general population trends along with the constant reduction in acute hospital beds, every winter has been getting progressively worse in the NHS and this year the flu surge brought it to its knees,” he told the Press Association.
“The pressure is ongoing – there is no let-up at all – and nothing will realistically change until after Easter, which will further stretch the workforce who are
the lifeblood of the NHS.”
He added: “Last autumn, NHS Improvement said the system had not recovered by October from the previous winter and this is without a doubt worse than that.
“Those in charge really need to start thinking about how we can sustain acute and urgent care going forward and plan in advance to maximise preparation.”
Figures released earlier this month showed that the NHS’s main performance target in accident and emergency
departments hit its lowest level since it was introduced.
Just 85 per cent of patients were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours of arrival in A&E in February, according to figures released by NHS England. The target of 95% has not been met since July 2015.
The health body said that staff had been faced with working in a “perfect storm” of appalling weather, persistently high hospital admissions due to flu and a renewed spike in norovirus.
The worst flu season in the last seven years, along with high rates of norovirus, has meant that 5,000 beds a day have been needed to care for people with these conditions – the equivalent of 10 acute hospitals, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England said earlier this month.
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Theresa May’s NHS winter crisis is already stretching into spring and hospitals remain full to bursting.
“The fact is that NHS services have been stretched to breaking point by years of Tory underfunding and staff simply don’t have the resources they need to do their job.
“Basic standards of care are being missed because of the overwhelming pressure which this Government has forced onto the NHS.
“Ministers must now act on this high-level warning about the dangers that patients could face in the months ahead.”