The NHS is facing a winter of ‘real pressures’ if the seasonal struggles of hospitals in Australia and New Zealand is a marker, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has said.
Speaking at the 2017 NHS Health and Care innovation Expo in Manchester this week Mr Stevens said the service was better prepared than last year – which was the worst on record – but warned that there is ‘a great deal of work to be done’.
Mr Stevens said: ‘For the next three, four or five months the priority for every leader is ensuring the NHS goes into winter in as strong a position as possible.
'We know we will have more hospital beds open, we know we are better prepared but the pressures are going to be real.
‘The signs from Australia and New Zealand are that it’s been a heavy flu season and many hospitals there have struggled to cope.
'There is a great deal of work to be done to put the NHS on the right footing for the winter ahead.’
In July, the number of flu cases in Australia was more than double the highest total recorded in any of the previous four years.
At the height of winter in the UK earlier this year the British Red Cross described the situation in the country’s hospitals as a ‘humanitarian crisis’.
It was forced to step in to help, providing volunteers and vehicles to ease the strain on the service, with hospital beds full, black alerts being declared regularly and patients waiting on trolleys for 12 hours or more.
Mr Stevens also used his keynote speech to praise the health service ahead of its 70th anniversary in July 2018.
He said: ‘The reality is that despite all the pressures there’s a lot to be incredibly proud of. Next year the NHS turns 70 … and the contract with the British people is as intact, and as vibrant and as important as it was back then.’
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