Hospitals remain under intense pressure this winter from flu and illness caused by the cold weather, NHS England figures show.

A&E units had to divert patients to other hospitals 20 times last week, and more than 11,000 patients had to be looked after by ambulance crews for at least half an hour before they could be handed over to A&E nurses.

The figure of 20 A&E diverts in the seven days to last Sunday was a big rise on the six the week before. It means acute hospitals have now been forced to divert patients in ambulances to other nearby A&E units 208 times since winter began at the end of November.


Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS trust, which runs hospitals in Worcester and Redditch, has had the most A&E diverts (39) in that time, according to NHS England's latest winter performance weekly data.

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS foundation trust, which runs hospitals in Cheltenham and Gloucester, has had the second most (30).

Bed occupancy at general and acute hospital wards fell a little last week, from 94.9% to 94.8%, but it remains far higher than the 85% “safe” limit needed to reduce the spread of infections such as MRSA and the chance of patients receiving poor care.

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM), said the figures undermined Theresa May’s insistence at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday that the NHS in England was the best prepared for winter it has ever been.

“Pressures in the system remain high, and it really is offensive and disingenuous to see the prime minister only yesterday remain adamant that the NHS was better prepared than ever this winter,” he said.

The SAM represents doctors who look after many patients admitted to the hospital, especially those who do not need surgery. “The overall mood among healthcare staff is that they remain anxious and depressed, and we simply cannot afford a repeat of these dire circumstances again,” Scriven added.

A recent SAM survey found that 75% of acute medicine doctors felt their hospitals were not properly prepared this winter, while 28% said they were in a worse position than last year. Those specialists believed that bed shortages, A&E units’ inability to cope with the number of patients arriving and shortages of both nurses and junior doctors were major problems, the survey found.

Sourced from The Guardian