Update - NHS refutes claims it is facing ‘humanitarian crisis’

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The NHS has rejected claims it is facing a “humanitarian crisis” amid criticism that it has struggled to cope with winter pressures.

It comes as it emerged that two patients died on trolleys in Worcestershire Royal Hospital’s accident and emergency department in the last week.

The Red Cross said it has stepped to help the NHS in England deal with the increased demand put on the service over the colder months.

The charity’s chief executive, Mike Adamson, said extra cash was needed for health and social care to make the system sustainable.

“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.”

However, Keith Willett, director of acute care for NHS England, said it had worked with the charity over recent winters, funding and supporting it with its “excellent service at home and ambulance service”.

He added: “But on the international scale of a humanitarian crisis, I do not think the NHS is at that point.”

The latest figures show overflowing A&E departments have shut their doors to patients more than 140 times in December.

On Friday a national body warned that a third of health trusts in England had issued alerts that they needed urgent action to cope last month, with seven of those unable to provide comprehensive care.

Describing the pressure on the NHS, Mr Willett said: “Clearly, demand is at the highest level ever.

“But also our planning is probably more comprehensive than it has ever been. In many ways this is a level of pressure we have not seen before and the workload that the NHS is being asked to shoulder in terms of medical treatment and personal care is very high.

“There are several reasons for that. There is the winter and many more people have breathing and heart problems, but we know it is also very difficult at the moment and social care and community services are not able to react fast enough to free up beds to keep up the flow through hospitals.”

He explained that the main problem is moving patients through the hospital.

“Many commentators have said if there is more money to be had then it should be directed at social care in the community first, and that will help the NHS more than anything else at the moment,” he concluded.

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