NHS prepared for winter

19 Oct 00
Efforts to minimise pressure on the health service this winter went up a gear this week as leading figures warned that the NHS faces a tough three months.

20 October 2000

Nigel Crisp, the newly appointed NHS chief executive and permanent secretary, said: 'The NHS and social care organisations are better prepared than ever before this winter. Inevitably there will be problems – there are extra winter pressures on health services the world over. The NHS is a service in transition, we have got more resources and more nurses in the system than ever before.'

Though the Department of Health has financed an extra 343 critical care beds, it knows there may not be enough staff to keep them open over the winter period.

A group of ministers and high-ranking civil servants met this week to review English health authorities' winter planning strategies.

The group will direct special attention to health and social services in areas that it believes are under-prepared and may send in teams of managers and clinicians to help avert local crises.

Crisp welcomed the Royal College of Nursing's launch of a winter planning resource pack and a 24-hour telephone helpline to enable nurses to report problems before they get out of hand.

The RCN said it will feed its data to the Department of Health and its officers and stewards will also work with nurses in areas of extreme pressures to ensure problems are dealt with as quickly as possible.

The RCN denied it had little confidence in local managers' ability to deal with winter pressures.

The hotline initiative was welcomed by the NHS Confederation, but a spokesman added: 'The pack should be sent to every trust and it is important to stress that nurses must report incidents and problems locally first before calling the national line.'

RCN general secretary Christine Hancock said the health service must make strides in sharing innovations. 'Winter planning in the NHS has improved enormously, but it is still likely to be a tough winter for those who work in the NHS this year. Nurses and other frontline staff know what will make a difference to them and their patients – managers and government have to help us get those ideas in place,' she added.


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