1. ITV Report

NHS Providers say £250m needed to avoid winter hospital bed crisis

NHS bosses have warned hospitals need an emergency £250 million cash injection to avert another winter crisis.

NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts in England, says the government has just three weeks to fund more staff and beds.

With fears a flu outbreak that pushed Australia's healthcare services to its limit is on its way to the UK, many hospitals are already close to capacity.

Patients wait in the corridor of A&E at Milton Keynes University Hospital. Credit: ITV News

One of those is Milton Keynes University Hospital, where A&E patients are already being forced to queue in the corridor.

Most hospitals are designed to operate at 85% bed occupancy, but Milton Keynes has already eclipsed that before Spring is over.

Milton Keynes University Hospital chief executive Joe Harrison Credit: ITV News

"We're running at around about 90 to 95% bed occupancy routinely here, at a time when we should be looking to have spare beds to cope with any flu pandemic that happens," hospital chief executive Joe Harrison said.

Saffron Cordery, director of policy for NHS Providers, said extra staff are critically needed to get through the winter period.

"We think that they (the government) have probably got till the end of this month, or the middle of next month, at most to really make an effective intervention so that we can get extra staff in place," she said.

Today Labour said that £500m was needed to prevent a crisis, but the Department of Health says the £2 billion it has found for social care should ease the pressure on hospitals by freeing up beds.