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NHS England outlines measures to boost capacity ahead of substantial winter pressures

The package of measures includes creating the equivalent of 7,000 additional hospital beds

NHS

NHS England has announced a package of measures that aims to boost capacity and resilience ahead of the substantial pressures expected this winter.

England’s health chiefs outlined the measures in a letter to colleagues that included plans to create the equivalent of 7,000 more beds through a mixture of temporary units at hospital sites and 2,500 ‘virtual ward spaces’ where patients would be monitored at home.

The number of NHS 111 and 999 call handlers will also be significantly increased to 4,800 and 2,500, respectively, to help staff deal with the higher demand.

The NHS will also work more closely with social care services to ensure that patients receive the care and support they need as quickly as possible in order to be able to leave hospital safely, and to stay well in their homes and communities.

According to official figures for July 2022, almost 30,000 patients waited more than 12 hours to be admitted to hospital. July also saw the highest number since records began of ambulance call-outs for life-threatening conditions, as well as only 40% of patients being able to leave hospital when ready.

“Staff are already under pressure with continued high demand for our services. [The] figures show the busiest summer ever for NHS emergency departments, with 2.18 million A&E attendances and almost 900,000 999 calls answered in June,” said Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director.

The plan emphasises that the ability to expand capacity depends on both sufficient workforce and workforce wellbeing, and will therefore be based on ‘realistic assumptions’, including how many staff can be recruited and at what speed. The NHS will also fully fund the recent pay award nationally, avoiding the need to cut frontline services for winter.

Responding to the package of measures, Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "NHS England rightly highlights that the biggest risk to the delivery of this plan is the availability of staff this winter.

“NHS leaders therefore need clarity on how they will be supported with staffing in the face of 105,000 vacancies. For example, in terms of the rules around the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme and flexibility regarding the agency cap to allow them to mitigate the impacts of the workforce crisis as much as possible.”

Article by
Emily Kimber

15th August 2022

From: Healthcare

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