Acute medics warn the NHS is facing ‘winter-like pressures’ in summer

A record number of patients are on the NHS waiting list.

Hospital stock
Hospital stock

The health service in England is experiencing ‘winter-like pressures’, the Society of Acute Medicine has warned.

Medics from the organisation, which represents doctors working in the field of acute medicine, said that doctors were treating “vast numbers” of people with non-Covid illnesses as well as many attending hospital with severe coronavirus symptoms.

Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM), said many patients were suffering from illnesses typically seen in winter such as respiratory infections – particularly in children, but also large numbers of patients who have seen their health deteriorate over the past 18 months.

The NHS is facing a huge backlog of care which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

A record 5.45 million people are waiting for care in England alone.

“I think it is fair to say we are currently facing an unprecedented summer workload that feels more like the worst winter pressures most of us can recall,” said Dr Scriven.

“We are seeing vast numbers of patients with non-Covid illness alongside the steady admission rates of those still very poorly with Covid.

“The types of illnesses we are seeing are typical of winter weather as in a lot of respiratory infections, especially in paediatrics, but also a lot of people where the lack of access to primary and secondary care during the last 18 months could now be contributing to them needing hospital admission.

“We are also noticing frailer people who have deconditioned over lockdowns so that any illness that previously might have been fairly minor now needs an extended stay in hospital with periods of rehabilitation.”

Dr Susan Crossland, president of SAM, said: “This is a deeply concerning time as we are in uncharted territory here with a summer crisis consisting of so many different problems with no end in sight and the daunting prospect of an extremely busy and difficult winter.

“We know many hospitals are at bed occupancy levels well over the safe limit of 85%, with some at more than 95%, at this point of the year and we know we have worse to come with a system that just isn’t currently fit for purpose.”

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

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