The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 13th January 2017

Red Cross declares humanitarian crisis in NHS

THE RED Cross, famed for its delivery of vital aid and healthcare in war zones, natural and man-made disasters around the globe, last week described the current winter crisis in the NHS as a humanitarian crisis and called on the Government to allocate more funds for health and social care.

The call came as Accident and Emergency (A&E) units around the country faced their worst winter crisis since the foundation of the NHS. Dozens of A&E unites were forced to close their doors to new patients as they struggled to cope.

Ambulances were forced to queue to unload patients, leaving a shortage available to answer new emergency calls, whilst patients in the A&E units were forced to wait on trolleys or in wheelchairs, first to be seen and assessed and then for a bed to become available. They waited up to 38 hours and in Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust two patients died whilst waiting for beds. Many who should have been admitted had to be sent home whilst existing patients on the wards were being discharged early to make way for new admissions.

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: “No one chooses to stay in hospital unless they have to, but we see first-hand what happens when people are sent home without appropriate and adequate care.

“We’ve seen people sent home without clothes, some suffer falls and are not found for days, while others are not washed because there is no carer there to help them. If people don’t receive the care they need and deserve, they will simply end up returning to A&E, and the cycle begins again.”

Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance volunteers have been mobilised to help with providing care in hospitals and in patients’ homes to help free-up beds and to assist NHS staff.

Mike Adamson said: “The British Red Cross is on the front line, responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country.

“We have been called in to support the NHS and help get people home from hospital and free up much-needed beds. This means deploying our team of emergency volunteers and even calling on our partner Land Rover to lend vehicles to transport patients and get the system moving.

“We call on the UK government to allocate immediate funding to stabilise the current system and set out plans towards creating a sustainable funding settlement for the future.”

He also said: “Money is definitely an issue because of all those people who used to get social care support who no longer do. There does need to be more funding for social care.”

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said staff were under intense pressure and the Society for Acute Medicine warned that this month could be the worst January the NHS has ever faced. Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said that every hospital in Essex has been on black alert and that emergency departments are “working at and beyond their capabilities”. He said: “The emergency care system is on its knees, despite the huge efforts of staff who are struggling to cope with the intense demands being put upon them. This cannot be allowed to continue. The scale of the crisis affecting emergency care systems has reached new heights, as we predicted, mainly due to a lack of investment in both social and acute health care beds, as well as emergency department staffing.”

Dr Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, told BBC Breakfast that the term “humanitarian crisis” was strong but “not a million miles away from the truth.” He added: “We have been predicting that we would face a winter from hell. I think that time has arrived.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded that Theresa May must come to Parliament on Monday to explain how she would fix the NHS “humanitarian crisis” but on Monday it was Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who was there, claiming that the Red Cross was being alarmist and that apart from a couple of hospitals everything was fine and that most A&E units were coping well.

And Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, accused Hunt of living in La-la land.