NHS staffing crisis sees ambulances taken off the road and sparks fears care may be RATIONED – as hospitals go on ‘war footing’ and begin erecting ‘Nightingale’ wards in car parks… but health chiefs warn they can’t ‘magic up’ staff to oversee them
One paramedic in Sheffield claimed teams were taking 24 hours to reach patients suffering from ‘urgent’ pains or burns. The NHS aims to attend category three calls — the name for these types of calls — within two hours.
They branded the service ‘completely broken’ and said it was no longer for emergencies, adding that ‘very few’ of the calls were from people who didn’t need medical help.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers — which represents ambulance trusts, admitted today that a high level of staff absences meant ‘significant numbers’ of ambulances were out of use.
And GPs warned of ‘massive problems’ while NHS bosses in Scotland — where the Army has already being drafted in to help struggling wards — say a wave of cases could force them to ration care to just the sickest patients.
It comes as the NHS today shifted to a ‘war footing’ and began constructing eight mini-‘Nightingale’ wards in staff car parks, in preparation for an expected surge in patients.
The make-shift units will be able to treat up to 100 Covid patients each. But questions have been raised over how the hospitals will be staffed, given the NHS was already short of 100,000-plus workers before the pandemic hit.
Addressing the topic, Mr Hopson said: ‘You can’t just magic up the number of staff that are needed to staff these beds out of thin air.’ And Pat Cullen, from the Royal College of Nursing, said she had ‘no idea’ how the hubs would be manned.
Omicron has left the NHS facing a major staffing crisis with thousands off isolating due to the virus, as cases reach record levels throughout the country.
Ministers have slashed self-isolation from ten days to seven for those that test negative on two lateral flow swabs taken 24 hours apart. But they are now being urged to cut this to five days, in line with the US, to ensure staff can get back to the frontline faster.
Mr Hopson said: ‘If absence rates and care quality/patient safety risk rise, pressure for a change to the isolation period will, inevitably, rise as well.’
Jack Grehan, a paramedic working in Sheffield, wrote on Twitter: ‘[Ambulance] land is completely broken.
‘We are no longer an emergency service. We are doing Category 2 calls [people suffering a stroke or chest pain] in three-quarters of an hour old at times, and Category 3’s almost 24 hours later.