Mayhem expected when cold snap strikes

A senior NHS doctor has warned that hospitals will face mayhem this coming weekend due to the coming cold snap.

Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, warned of severe difficulties for hospitals as lower temperatures lead to a surge in patients requiring hospital care. Coupled with a growing number of people with the flu and a shortage of NHS staff, Scriven has predicted further stress on already strecthed services.

He said that hospitals' ability to withstand a sudden increase in winter-related illness will be compromised by the NHS being 'horrednously udnerstaffed', and blamed the 'skeleton staffing' of social care services over the festive period for preventing patients who are medically fit to leave hospital remaining in hospital beds. Scriven stated that the 'capacity problems this will cause will be profound'.

NHS England has revealed that nearly 39,426 patients who arrived to A&E in an ambulance over the first four weeks of winter have been forced to wait half and hour or longer before being handed over to staff - roughly one in ten of all those who arrived by ambulance. This is mainly because A&E staff have been to busy and overcrowded to accept them on arrival. Of those 39,426 patinets, 7,004 had to wait with paramedics for an hour or more.

Additionally, in the four weeks ending on 30 December, A&E units were forced to divert patients to a nearby hospital 87 times, 15 more occassions than the figures for the same time period last year show.

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