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BRITAIN’S health service is severely under-equipped even before the coronavirus outbreak makes it full impact felt, the latest NHS performance statistics revealed today.
In January, the occupancy rate for adult critical care beds was 83 per cent, up from 75.3 per cent the previous month.
Some 1.5 million A&E patients were admitted within the targeted four-hour waiting time, a 4.5 per cent decrease on last year.
There were 78,656 instances in which patients waited over four hours from the decision to admit to admission, including 1,621 involving delays of more than 12 hours.
Health campaigners said the figures raise “extremely worrying questions” about the ability of the NHS to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Patients waiting for longer periods in busy departments where others are infected will only add to the public health hazard and the stress on staff, they pointed out.
Keep Our NHS Public co-chairman Dr Tony O’Sullivan said: “Reports from Italian healthcare staff are alarming, and their health service has far more capacity than ours.
“It is not an acceptable policy to have neglected the health service for the past decade but now expect it to be able to effectively deal with this kind of emergency.
“Many hospitals already operate at close to 100 per cent capacity and rota gaps are the norm.
“Through their underfunding and understaffing, the government have put the health of the public at risk and set our NHS staff up to fail – many do not even have adequate clothing protection to deal with the outbreak.”
Data from Italy indicates that 10 per cent of admitted patients have required intensive care and doctors there are now having to prioritise cases according to the likelihood of survival.
Britain is ranked at only number 24 out of 31 European countries in the league table for critical care beds, and the current 41,000 are almost always full.
Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the Commons today that it was “now overwhelmingly clear that no government can inflict a decade of cuts and austerity on our public services without impacting upon their resilience in a time of crisis.
“It shouldn’t take a crisis to secure for the NHS the resources it needs,” he added.
Publication of the figures coincides with NHS England telling hospitals to consider suspending non-emergency operations so that more beds and staff are available to tackle the virus.
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