The British Red Cross has said that the overcrowding in UK hospital emergency rooms has already become a humanitarian crisis and urged the government to allot more budget to provide social care for the elderly and the sick.
The country's National Health Service (NHS) was once described as the "closest thing the English have to a religion," as it provided free care for many Britons from cradle to the grave but it has been facing unprecedented strain in recent years, which unnecessarily puts lives at risk. Three patients recently died at a Worcestershire hospital.
NHS Winter Crisis
The constrained budget along with an ageing population and medical needs that become increasingly complex have left many hospitals struggling particularly during the winter season in recent years.
Shortage In Hospital Beds
Patients are being left to wait on trolleys sometimes for days due to shortage of hospital beds.
John Freeman, whose wife is recovering from stroke, said that his wife spent 38 hours on a trolley at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital.
"My wife was stuck on a trolley right next to the fire doors in a corridor and she couldn't get any sleep because of all the trolleys banging into the fire door going in and out," he said. "This is going back to the dark ages almost."
Red Cross Helps Address Hospital Crowding
Red Cross claims that cuts to social-care funding mean that some patients cannot be discharged because there is no available support. It has sent volunteers in several areas of the country to help patients go home and free up some of the hospital beds. It also offered "support at home" to help ease the pressure on hospitals.
The volunteers visit trusts to find out the social care needs that the patients would have when they are discharged. They then visit the patients at home to assist them with tasks, which include doing shopping and collecting prescriptions.
Unaddressed Needs Of The Elderly
British Red Cross chief executive Mike Adamson said that the charity has seen people being sent to their homes without clothes, some are not washed because there are no carers to help, and some even suffered falls and are not found for days.
Adamson said that not receiving the care that they need and deserve would only prompt people to return to the hospitals again.
Crisis Not At A Level Of Humanitarian Crisis
The NHS rejected Red Cross' description. Health service managers and government supporters also said that the charity is exaggerating the scale of the problem.
Keith Willett, NHS England's Director for Acute Care, said that demand is at its highest levels and that staff members are under unprecedented pressure but he does not think that the service is at a level of a humanitarian crisis.
"On the international scale of a humanitarian crisis, I don't think the NHS is at that point. Clearly, demand is at the highest level ever," Willett said. "But also our planning is probably more comprehensive than it has ever been."