Labour: Draft in ex-nurses to ease NHS burden

Labour would draft in former nurses to help ease the burden on accident and emergency departments, Ed Miliband has said.

GPs could also be installed in hospitals to cool pressure on the straining service, the Labour leader added.

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British Red Cross helping to transport NHS patients

The British Red Cross has stepped in to transport some patients home after they were discharged from A&E in Sheffield, where Deputy Prime Minister's Nick Clegg is an MP.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said they were currently facing an "unusual demand" and were very busy at this time.

They are using the charity to help transport patients who are fit enough to leave A&E, but the Red Cross is not providing health care to patients, the hospital's duty matron said.

Andy Peers, British Red Cross operations manager for Yorkshire said the charity had "highly trained volunteers and an extensive fleet of ambulance vehicles" that regularly help the NHS in times of high demand.


Fire engines 'used as makeshift ambulances'

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has claimed fire engines are being used as makeshift ambulances to help overstretched A&E services.

It said the A&E crisis was a "direct result of the government's failed austerity agenda."

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said “The public are being put at risk because the government have cut staff, resources and equipment in both the NHS and fire and rescue service.

“In certain incidences firefighters have been diverted away from doing their own work to cover for mistakes made by this government in the NHS.

“The knock on effect means that vital fire prevention work will be compromised as well as the ability to respond to other fire emergencies at a time of year where firefighters are expecting to deal with an increased number of flooding incidents across the UK."

Patients face long wait at A&E as hospitals struggle to cope

At least seven hospitals in England have declared a major incident status as they struggle with rising patient numbers.

Patients are facing long waits for beds, with others being left in hospital corridors while they wait to be seen.

One 81-year-old patient waited 11 hours for an ambulance after she collapsed at home and was then left on a trolley in a corridor as she waited to be treated at Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital

The hospital has apologised, blaming "unprecedented demand".

ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies looks at the pressures facing health workers and the NHS:

Welsh hospital trust recruits 70 nurses from Spain

A Welsh hospital board has taken on more than 70 nurses from Spain, with some interviewed over Skype.

The nurses, who had to show sufficient ability in English, will work in hospitals in Wrexham, Rhyl and Bangor, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said.

It said it was one of a range of measures they use to recruit which also includes appointment of graduates from universities and advertising posts nationally across the UK.

NHS: 111 referrals to A&E dropped despite rise in calls

The NHS has defended its non-emergency 111 helpline after criticism that its call handlers are sending too many patients to A&E.

NHS England said despite the helpline seeing a 40% increase in calls in the run-up to Christmas, referrals to A&E and ambulance services had fallen.

It said referrals to the ambulance services dropped from 11.3% to 9.7% while referrals to A&E fell from 7.6% to 5.7%.

NHS England added that during the last six months, fewer patients were referred through the helpline to A&E units over weekends than during the week, with 6.4% of calls referred compared with 8.6% between Monday and Friday.

Read more here: Too many 111 referrals to A&E 'a huge problem'


Scotland A&E units 'under considerable pressure'

Nicola Sturgeon Credit: PA Wire

A&E departments are under "considerable pressure" in Scotland this winter, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has admitted.

She said winter bugs, festive GP closures and the pressure from an ageing population had made it a busy period for A&E staff.

It comes as more operations were postponed at hospitals across Scotland today due to high levels of demand.

NHS Grampian said 45 planned procedures were postponed at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary today which would be rearranged as soon as possible.

Cameron and Miliband lock horns over NHS

David Cameron and Ed Miliband began to draw their lines over the NHS ahead of the General Election as they squared off over the NHS after the recent rash of hospitals declaring major incidents.

David Cameron and Ed Miliband in the House of Commons today.

Mr Miliband accused the Prime Minister of "blaming the patients" for the pressure facing struggling accident and emergency (A&E) departments and claimed the health service was in "crisis".

Mr Cameron turned his fire on the Labour leader, claiming he had talked of "weaponising" the NHS in a "disgusting" attempt to make political capital from its strains.

In bad-tempered exchanges at Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Miliband replied:

I'll tell you what's disgusting - it's a Prime Minister who said people could put their trust in him on the NHS.

You have betrayed that trust. You are in denial about the crisis in the NHS. This is a crisis on your watch as a result of your decisions.

That is why people know if they want to get rid of the crisis in the NHS they have to get rid of this Prime Minister.

– Ed Miliband

Mr Cameron hit back, telling MPs: "If ever you wanted proof (Labour) want to use this issue as a political football you have just seen it."

What is a 'major incident' and what does it mean for patients?

Several hospitals across England have declared 'major incidents' this week, but what does that mean and what cases them?

As more hospitals close what is a 'major incident'? Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

A major incident is usually declared after a big industrial or traffic accident or emergency, or a severe regional flu outbreak and usually happens in the winter when hospitals are already under strain.

Declaring a major incident allows hospital bosses to to call in extra staff and get staff to work more overtime.

However the main impact for patients is that a major incident allows a hospital to close its doors to all but the most acute cases.

In some extreme situations a hospital can close its A&E department completely - effectively closing the hospital, but this is rare.

More usually routine scheduled operations will be cancelled to free up beds and staff to deal with the influx of patients.

Different Hospital Trusts will have different criteria for declaring a major incident and may have different plans to deal with a surge in demand.

Burnham: 'It's time to combine health and social care budgets'

Andy Burnham has said that Labour would combine the health and social services budgets to try and care for the elderly in their homes before they become a burden on the NHS.

The shadow health secretary told Good Morning Britain: "I've repeatedly warned that if you cut social care, if you take away support from older people in their homes; in the end that falls back on the NHS because people go into hospital and they become trapped there. "I've said that we'll bring health and social care together I think the time has come to see them as one budget."

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