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Furore erupts over Red Cross claims that it is helping alleviate pressure on hospitals

The Prime Minister, Theresa May and Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, have both denied that there is a humanitarian crisis in the health service following reports over the weekend by the British Red Cross that its Support at Home service is being called on to help the NHS free up beds and alleviate overcrowding in A&E through what its says has been one of the busiest weeks ever for the service.

In the space of just 24 hours some 14 health Trusts warned of overcrowding in A&E, with a knock-on effect of considerable delays in some ambulance services. Much of the pressure on hospitals at the front end stems from delays in discharging patients who may be fit to leave hospital but can’t be discharged because the right care and support isn’t available for them at home.

Mike Adamson, Chief Executive of the British Red Cross, says: “No one chooses to stay in hospital unless they have to, but we see first-hand what happens when people are sent home without appropriate and adequate care.

“We’ve seen people sent home without clothes, some suffer falls and are not found for days, while others are not washed because there is no carer there to help them.

“If people don’t receive the care they need and deserve, they will simply end up returning to A&E, and the cycle begins again.”
Through its Support at Home service, the Red Cross sends volunteers and staff to help establish people’s social care needs and improve the flow of patients in and out of hospital.

The Red Cross says a lack of investment in care services for adults, cuts to funding and increasing demand have led to a gap in care provision and is calling for the government to allocate funds for health and social care and to invest smartly, including a focus on preventative services.
Mike Adamson adds: "The British Red Cross is on the front line, responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country.

“We have been called in to support the NHS and help get people home from hospital and free up much-needed beds. This means deploying our team of emergency volunteers and even calling on our partner Land Rover to lend vehicles to transport patients and get the system moving.
“We call on the UK government to allocate immediate funding to stabilise the current system and set out plans towards creating a sustainable funding settlement for the future.”

Theresa May has rejected the claims, saying the current winter pressure is similar to that experienced every year by the NHS. Jeremy Hunt admits some hospitals are under severe pressure but states that overall hospitals are performing slightly better than last year.