Bed occupancy well above 90% “dangerous” – SAM past president

Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, comments on current NHS pressures, the challenges being faced by staff and actions required to tackle some of the underlying issues across the system.

He said: “Across our hospitals staff are facing pressures much like those seen in mid-winter, with bed occupancy levels well above 90% which is dangerous and unsustainable.

“This is before we face any further rise in Covid patients which would lead to a third wave for the south but, as it seems is often overlooked, a fourth for those in the north.

“The worry is that hospitals are on a knife-edge but not necessarily a Covid one, with acute units on the brink due to very high numbers of patients being admitted due to chronic illnesses that have taken their toll over past lockdowns and, in many cases, are due to an inability to access urgent primary care.

“Not only do our staff have to contend with current pressures and worry about the Covid cases in front of them, but also now the spectre of asymptomatic Covid transmission in the vaccinated, the prospect of a long hot summer in full personal protective equipment and patients suffering from a lack of human contact and family visits in their times of need.

“Because of all of this, it really is time to ram home the message that staff are reaching the end of their tethers, both physically and emotionally.

“We join those calling on the government to take immediate action to protect the wellbeing of staff but also to start looking at ways it can begin to tackle some of the issues we and others have been ringing alarm bells over for many years, such as bed numbers and social care provision to show a commitment to making things better.”