Pressures on the NHS have “escalated rapidly” over the festive period with hospitals experiencing significant bed shortages, a leading doctor has warned.
Calderdale-based Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM), said many hospitals reported more than 99 per cent capacity in the week before Christmas.
He said services were being placed under significant strain as they entered the new year and called for non-urgent operations to be postponed until at least the end of January.
NHS England said hospitals were “generally coping”, with overall bed occupancy levels down from 95 per cent in the lead-up to Christmas to around 93 per cent.
Dr Scriven said: “Since the bank holiday things have escalated rapidly and we are on the cusp of a major issue at least as bad as last year when it was described by the Red Cross as a humanitarian crisis.
“There is an awful lot of respiratory illness causing a lot of severe symptoms in the old and young and ten to 12-hour delays in emergency departments are now not uncommon – along with patients being placed on inappropriate wards.”
He urged hospitals to prepare for extra demand, adding: “I fear for acute trusts this next week.”
Head of the British Red Cross Mike Adamson described the situation facing the NHS as a “humanitarian crisis” in January last year. At the time, he said demand for the charity’s help had risen and revealed it was working in 20 A&Es.
A spokesman for NHS England said: “At this time of year, our hospitals are extremely busy, but thanks to hard-working NHS staff and robust plans in place to meet winter pressures, they are generally coping.
“Hospitals are currently reporting bed occupancy levels of 92-93 per cent – down from 95 per cent previously. Bed occupancy on Christmas Eve was down to 84.2 per cent, compared with 95.3 per cent on December 18.”