England’s National Health Service (NHS) is under strain following years of relative underinvestment, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and strike action by frontline staff over pay.
London,UPDATED: Jan 9, 2023 10:08 AM IST
File photo of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking with a patient at Croydon University Hospital in London. (Photo: Reuters)
By Reuters: England’s National Health Service (NHS) aims to begin discharging thousands of patients into care homes and other settings in the next few weeks in an effort to free up desperately needed beds during one of its toughest ever winters.
The state-run health service, which delivers free care for the whole population and until recently had been a source of pride for many Britons, is under strain following years of relative underinvestment, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and strike action by frontline staff over pay.
Some patients are being treated in corridors and ambulances have been queuing outside hospitals to hand over patients to emergency wards, as doctors and nurses struggle to discharge patients amid a shortage of staff and beds.
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The government said in a statement it would make up to 200 million pounds ($242 million) of additional funding available in England to buy short-term care places to allow patients who doctors judge have low medical needs to be looked after outside hospital and 50 million pounds to improve existing facilities.
The statement did not say if the NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would also be putting more funds into care beds.
The objective of discharging some patients into other settings is a revival of a practice used by the NHS in England during the pandemic, when hospitals sought to clear as many beds as possible for use by patients with COVID-19.
“The NHS is under enormous pressure from COVID and flu, and on top of tackling the backlog caused by the pandemic, Strep A and upcoming strikes, this winter poses an extreme challenge,” Steve Barclay, health minister, said in the statement.