Cold snap could add to strain on health services

Snow covers Whitby's 199 steps.
Snow covers Whitby's 199 steps.
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The prolonged cold snap could place the NHS under renewed pressure, with a rise in hospital attendance and admissions expected as the nation was braced for the next wave of heavy snowfall.

A spike in norovirus cases and high rates of flu have left the health service facing the “most challenging circumstances for several years”, NHS England said.

A girl falls off her sledge at Rothwell Park, Leeds...28th February 2018 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

A girl falls off her sledge at Rothwell Park, Leeds...28th February 2018 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

The National Emergency Pressures Panel (NEPP), which met today, warned the NHS should prepare for continued pressure as severe weather grips the country.

Forecasters predict the snow and freezing temperatures will continue, prompting the Met Office to extend some of its weather warnings.

The red warning for parts of Scotland will continue tomorrow and yellow warning covering vast swathes of the UK have been extended until 9am on Saturday.

Chairman of the emergency panel, Sir Bruce Keogh said: “The panel wants to thank all NHS colleagues for their continued hard work and dedication in the face of a ‘perfect storm’ of appalling weather, flu and norovirus.

A couple walk through the snow in Prince of Wales Park during a snow shower.'28 February 2018.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

A couple walk through the snow in Prince of Wales Park during a snow shower.'28 February 2018. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“With the severe conditions expected to continue we ask patients and their families to bear with us as we seek to minimise any disruption.”

Wintry weather conditions affected NHS services around the region as appointments were cancelled and staff could not make it to work.

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust made an appeal for off-duty staff to go into work after heavy snow today.

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, which runs hospitals in Goole, Grimsby and Scunthorpe, cancelled all elective care, including outpatient appointments and United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust also cancelled non-urgent outpatient appointments and operations.

A gritter tries to clear the A1 motorway near to Catterick, North Yorkshire, where a jack-knifed lorry closed the motorway after the beast from the east dumped snow on the UK. Picture Glen Minikin.

A gritter tries to clear the A1 motorway near to Catterick, North Yorkshire, where a jack-knifed lorry closed the motorway after the beast from the east dumped snow on the UK. Picture Glen Minikin.

But urgent two-week wait appointments, radiotherapy, renal services and oncology clinics would go ahead as planned, it added.

A number of other clinics and GP appointments in other parts of the country were also affected, such as stop smoking clinics.

Mountain Rescue teams, coastguard and the fire brigade have been called on to get medical help to people in the outlying areas.

In Sheffield, an ambulance got stuck in snow while carrying a patient and was helped by Edale Mountain Rescue Team, while volunteers were also called to assist an ambulance crew when a woman dislocated her knee after slipping on ice.

Paul Stevens, Head of Community Resilience at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “Ensuring frontline resources can reach those patients who urgently require clinical intervention is our priority.

“Some of our patients may be in outlying areas across Yorkshire and this becomes increasingly challenging.”

Meanwhile, in London, a man in his 60s died after falling into a lake in Danson Park, Welling.