HOSPITALS are overflowing with patients and A&E departments are turning them away in despair, an NHS England report warned today.
The health service management body revealed that hospital bed occupancy peaked at more than 95 per cent last week, the highest level this winter.
Labour said overcrowding is having knock-on effects on the rest of the NHS, with 43 A&E departments diverting patients to other hospitals last week.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Patients and their families will be deeply worried by this latest evidence that hospitals remain dangerously overfull.
“Ministers need to get a grip and give the health service and its brilliant staff the resources they need to keep the service running.
“Years of underfunding by the Tory government, combined with their harsh cuts to social care, mean that there just aren’t enough beds. Last week, bed occupancy was 95.1 per cent — over 10 per cent higher than the recommended safe level.”
NHS England blamed the increase on higher incidence of flu and norovirus and urged the public to use NHS 111 and pharmacists for advice to help alleviate pressure on its services.
However, unions and campaigners warned that the rise was symptomatic of a deeper problem.
Unite national health officer Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “This is a crisis that has been brewing under the malign stewardship of the NHS by the Tories since 2010 and is causing increasing anxiety and worry to patients and their families.
“The government needs to solve the social care crisis which is effectively helping to block beds in the NHS. They need to stop talking about integrating health and social care and get on with it, which means providing the necessary funds.”
London GP Dr Louise Irvine, a member of the Keep Our NHS Public campaign steering committee, said: “The latest figures show no let-up in this winter’s dreadful NHS crisis. Patients are suffering and at risk of dying without the care they need.”
She said the problem was not a “winter crisis” but an all-year-round one which worsens every year, adding: “This is intolerable.”
Dr Irvine called for an end to outsourcing of health services to profit-hungry privateers such as Virgin Care and Carillion and for support for the NHS in Crisis — Fix It Now demonstration in London tomorrow.
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