How much more can hospitals take?

The prime minister admitted today that the NHS is under enormous pressure - Emily Morgan takes a closer look at the figures behind that pressure

Sadly, nothing material has changed since last week, except that ambulance handover delays are now at new highs and there is a 47% rise in the number of patients in hospital with flu.

In truth, it makes one wonder how much more of this hospitals can take before there is literally nowhere to put patients coming in for emergency care.

What strikes me today is this - staff are used to 'winter pressures', by that I mean large numbers of patients with flu, respiratory illnesses, RSV and now Covid filling up wards throughout the winter months.

They have in the past dealt with it, cleared room for the expected rise in patients, grinned and got on with it.

What they're perhaps not used to is the huge numbers of patients in wards who don't need to be there.

They are the poor patients who are ready to leave, but who are waiting for care packages to be put in place to ensure they can go home safely and be looked after once they get there.

There are just under 13,000 such patients and the number has been stubbornly high for months.

Numerous chief executives of hospital trusts have said if they could tackle that problem, get patients out of hospital, it would solve most of their problems.

It would create what they call 'flow' through the hospital.

The problem is solving that is not easy, in fact it won't be solved this winter and there is a high likelihood it won't be solved next winter either.

The government acknowledges this is the problem and has given trusts and local authorities more money to help with issues in social care.

That's great, of course it is, but it takes time to feed through the system and it takes time to recruit new staff (if there is anyone who still wants to work in the profession) so the idea that any of this money or indeed the promises will help right this very moment are pie in the sky.

More data will come out next week and it will no doubt break more records.

Many people have said to me it's important not to become indifferent to long delays and wait times. It shouldn't be like this they say, and can't become normal.

It's hard not to agree.

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