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NHS at ‘full capacity’

Professor Keith Willett, director of acute care for NHS England, has said that the NHS is in an unsustainable position and is running at full capacity. He said fundamental change is needed within the NHS to improve healthcare and ease pressure on hospitals which are already at capacity.

Professor Willett added that urgent changes need to be made as hospitals struggle with the burden of the large number of people going to A&E. He dismissed the mild winter as the reason for easing the pressure on emergency care, and warned that hospitals are already running on stretched resources.

“It’s in an unsustainable position in terms of urgent care for the future. We will have to make substantial changes to the way our patients are cared for outside hospital.”

He added:

“The majority of people do seem to recognise that A&E is under pressure, but one in four said they would go again if they couldn’t access their GP. In the long term we will run into problems again.”

Professor Willett said the problem facing A&E departments is not the number of people attending but the volume who now need to be admitted because care outside hospital is not good enough – emergency admissions to hospitals have increased by 47% in the last 15 years.

Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of The Public Account Committee (PAC), said:

“Any attempt to improve emergency admissions services in the NHS is being completely stymied by the chronic shortage of specialist A&E consultants. Nearly one fifth of consultant posts in emergency departments were either vacant or filled by locums in 2012. There are also major problems in training enough doctors in emergency medicine.”

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