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NHS needs emergency cash boost to avoid winter crisis, health bosses warn

Demand for emergency care is continuing its “inexorable rise” and key staff shortages are growing.

The NHS is facing its worst winter in recent history if it does not receive an immediate cash boost, health chiefs have warned.

NHS Providers, the trade association that represents hospital, mental health, community and ambulance service trusts in England, called for an emergency cash injection of between £200 and £350 million to enable the NHS to manage patient safety risk in the winter months.

The organisation said failure to make the investment will lead to longer waiting times for patients in A&E and other services, and will also put the safety of patients at risk as local trusts have “insufficient capacity” to meet extra expected demand.

A report by NHS Providers has found that the level of planning and support for this winter – led jointly by NHS England and NHS Improvement – is considerably more developed than last year and emergency care performance has been given greater priority.

The report found extra social care funding is helping to increase capacity in about a third of local areas, and this should help to reduce the delays faced by some patients in those areas when they are medically fit to leave hospital but are unable to do so because of a lack of available support in the community.

But the trade association said these improvements are being outweighed by a combination of increasing risks.

It said NHS trusts are not consistently benefiting from the extra £1 billion of social care investment announced in the spring Budget, as planned, and as a result, delayed transfers of care for patients remain “stubbornly high”.

It added that demand for emergency care is continuing its “inexorable rise”, key staff shortages are growing, and primary and social care capacity, as a whole, remains “very challenged”.

NHS Providers also said trusts are under greater financial pressure than last year and therefore less able to afford the extra capacity they urgently need.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “Last winter the health service came under pressure as never before.

“At its height, the NHS had to provide 4,500 additional beds a day – equivalent to more than eight extra hospitals.

“Patient safety was compromised as local services struggled to cope with the pressures.

“At times, in some places, the NHS was overwhelmed. We must act now to prevent the situation becoming even worse this winter.”

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