In the run up to Christmas it was reported that few A&E departments in England were managing to hit targets around how long patients should wait to be seen.
It’s easy to assume that this is just down to what was historically called winter pressures. On the other hand is this the reality.
I can recall 10 years ago when I was on call at the hospital I worked at around this time of the year. Over the festive season and beyond we faced the challenge of ambulance waits, full department and delayed transfers of care.
We keep hearing about longer life expectancy and in many ways this is positive. At the same time it puts even more demand on hospitals and the NHS more generally.
Additionally if we are encouraging people to live healthy lifestyles, it means that people are more likely to access services.
So is it time to stop assuming that pressures on emergency care are short term and in reality requires a different approach?
Short term additional funding helps to an extent when it comes to staffing. However, unless you can create additional capacity and reduce the level of blocked beds (those where the patient is clinically fit to leave hospital but needs support to go home) it is not going to make a significant difference.
Let’s not pretend that there is any quick fix and start to see what best can be done to provide a sustainable longer term solution to what without doubt is no longer a short term problem.
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