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Hospitals likely to struggle this winter due to a combination of pressures, NHS leader warns

HOSPITALS are likely to struggle in the coming months under a combination of winter pressures, Covid-19 and staff shortages, an NHS leader warned yesterday. 

Dr Layla McCay, a director at the NHS Confederation, said that the expected surge in demand is “causing concern” among staff. 

Winter is usually a very difficult time for the health service, with cold weather bringing a surge in flu, vomiting bugs and respiratory problems that prompts annual warnings of a winter crisis.

“What we are anticipating this year is that there will be that winter surge and on top of that a Covid-19 surge,” Dr McCay said. 

Because of this, there could be a “huge difference” between how the second wave of the virus hits the country and the effects of the initial outbreak, she warned.

“We don’t know how much demand is going to be for either winter or Covid-19, but from the predictions and trends we have seen, there is cause to be concerned,” she said. 

“Staff are willing and ready to deal with the demands of Covid-19 and also the demands of winter alongside delivering and restoring services, but I think it is going to be a struggle.”

Healthcare workers are also worried by crippling staff shortages and soaring stress levels. 

Even before the pandemic hit, there were nearly 40,000 nursing vacancies in England, a problem which Dr McCay said will “become a lot more stark” as the pressures grow. 

A Royal College of Nursing spokesperson said: “Nursing staff in all settings from hospitals to care homes and in community settings have all reported increased levels of stress and longer hours. 

“With the coming pressures that winter will bring, there is real concern from all nursing staff about what is to come.”
 
“A recent RCN survey found over three-quarters of respondents reported an increase to levels of stress and 90 per cent were concerned about the wellbeing of their colleagues.”
 
The comments follow a report last month from the NHS Confederation, which represent the majority of hospital trusts and other healthcare providers, warning of a “triple whammy” facing the service this winter. 

The NHS has to deal with the “huge backlog” of delayed treatments that built up during the lockdown and a second surge of coronavirus cases, while also restoring capacity as Covid-19 restrictions are eased, the authors said. 

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