NHS Winter Crisis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:08 pm on 10th January 2018.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health 1:08 pm, 10th January 2018

Let me make a little progress, if I may. I will try to take as many interventions as possible, but this is only a half-day debate and I know that many people want to speak.

We have heard the stories of ambulances backed up outside hospitals. Ambulances have been diverted from gridlocked A&E departments 150 times. Our hospitals are overcrowded and our bed occupancy levels are running at unsafe levels. In the run-up to Christmas eve, over one third of England’s children’s care units were 100% full, with not a single spare bed. We have had reports of whole children’s wards being used for adults. In fact, we do not know the full scale of the crisis because this year NHS England is not reporting which hospital trusts have issued the OPEL—operational pressures escalation levels—alerts revealing hospital pressures. I hope that, given the Secretary of State’s keenness on duty of candour, he will explain why the OPEL data is not being collected and published nationally for England, as it has been in recent years.

But of course behind every single one of these statistics is a real human story. We have heard stories of elderly, fragile patients treated in the backs of ambulances in the freezing January weather, or elderly patients, sometimes confused, languishing on trolleys in corridors, such as the 80-year-old epileptic man with severe dementia who was stuck on a trolley for 36 hours waiting to be treated at the Royal Stoke. His daughter, Jackie Weaver, said:

“it was absolutely horrendous. You couldn’t get past for all the trolleys”.