Medics welcome NHS winter investment – but warn of 3,000 bed shortage

Leading doctors have welcomed the Department of Health and Social Care’s announcement of a £145 million investment to help NHS hospitals cope this winter.

However, they have warned the additional 900 beds will not “scratch the surface”, falling 3,100 short of what was required last year, so the support of clinicians will be “imperative” to the success of any preparations.

“We are pleased at this positive action as staff on the frontline have been calling for much greater efforts to help better prepare hospitals for the growing pressures of winter for the past three years,” said Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine.

“Although 900 extra beds are welcome, we note last winter the total number of extra beds in use was 4,000, so this additional investment will need to be combined with efforts to engage with clinicians as to how to prepare effectively.

“A recent survey of our members showed that 60% of staff, at present, feel worse prepared for this winter than last and morale has been battered due to a lack of respite during a high pressure summer.

“Added to that we have the realisation the union recommended pay deal was far from the deal envisaged for the vast majority of staff and, for medical staff, below inflation yet again.”

Dr Susan Crossland, vice-president of SAM, added: “This announcement is good news, but there is a long way to go and, as the group who look after both the largest proportion of those admitted as emergencies and those who avoid an admission by using ambulatory emergency care, we have a wealth of experience to share with those who seek to make policy and plans.

“So far we have not been offered an opportunity to help so we would urge the health secretary to engage with us to look at solutions which can complement this additional funding announcement.”

Acute medicine deals with the immediate and early treatment of adult patients with a variety of medical conditions who present to hospital as emergencies.

The specialty receives the majority of patients admitted from A&E and helps maintain the flow of patients through emergency departments to avoid exit block, the term used when patients cannot be moved into a hospital bed.

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