Senior medic says hospitals being “pushed to brink” this week

A senior medic has warned hospitals across the country are being “pushed to the brink” in a chaotic week across the NHS.

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said he had heard “horror stories” of urgent care services “falling over”.

He said many hospitals had already filled ‘extra’ capacity beds that were not normally opened until after Christmas.

“It is only the third week in September and it feels very much as though urgent care is again on a knife-edge,” explained Dr Scriven.

“Since the weekend I have been hearing stores from up and down the country as to how busy things are and the impact it is having.

“We are already seeing ‘extra’ capacity areas, which are traditionally opened post-Christmas, fully occupied and areas that don’t normally house patients being used – often to the detriment of the services that usually run there.

“For example, having patients ‘bedded’ in ambulatory care units which blocks then from significant proportions of their usual work, possibly resulting in extra admissions and definitely a poor patient experience.”

Dr Scriven said he was “aghast” to see health secretary Matt Hancock claim his government’s policies were directly linked to a fall in death rates in England.

“These tremendous difficulties come the very same week the Secretary of State has rather optimistically claimed a possible overall fall in death rates is due to his policies – a claim that has been swiftly rebutted by the BMJ among others.

“It is depressing to see and hear our political masters continuing to squabble like unruly children and Mr Hancock claim he is now the saviour of the NHS when the reality is no-one has faced the real and ongoing issues that have been getting worse year-on-year for at least three years.”

Dr Scriven said although the true picture of this week will not be known for some weeks, services have been “tested to the maximum and that is extremely worrying”.

“The true picture of this week will not emerge for some weeks and it remains to be seen whether this is a brief snow flurry or the onset of a full-on blizzard which, if it is, is extremely worrying given the time of year,” he said.

“There are stories emerging from our emergency departments of patients yet again in beds and on trolleys in corridors and multiple breaches of the four-hour target.

“Yet I am still awaiting a response to the concerns I outlined to Mr Hancock and prime minister Boris Johnson more than a month ago – the lack of engagement with those on the frontline is absurd.”

Acute medicine, also known as acute internal 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 plays a vital role in maintaining the flow of patients through emergency departments to avoid exit block, the term used when patients cannot be moved into a hospital bed.