Stay at home and save lives when it snows as NHS on red alert over winter crisis – Jayne Dowle

THE next time we have heavy snow, can I make a plea? Stay at home. Our emergency services and A&E departments are under enough pressure as it is without foolhardy motorists setting off for a spot of Christmas shopping in a blizzard.

Families should not venture out in the snow, says Jayne Dowle, if the NHS is not to be overwhelmed this winter. What's your view?

There, I’ve said it. As the Health and Social Care Secretary scrambles together the latest version of the ever-changing ‘Winter Plan’, we all need to take personal responsibility to reduce pressure on the NHS.

As December dawns, we face the most horrendous perfect storm of desperately over-stretched emergency and medical resources, a new variant of coronavirus, and burnt-out and exhausted individuals susceptible to physical and mental ill-health.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The last thing anyone wants to add to the list is a nasty case of whiplash, or worse. Just why do people seem to lose their senses when the white stuff comes down?

Families should not venture out in the snow, says Jayne Dowle, if the NHS is not to be overwhelmed this winter. What's your view?

I looked out of my window on Saturday morning and watched motorists skidding all over the road, abandoning cars left, right and centre.

Perhaps it’s a sign of age, but I’m ultra-cautious these days. I only drive in bad weather if it’s absolutely necessary for work, essential shopping or medical reasons. Over the years, I’ve had several terrifying experiences with black ice and blizzards. 
Let’s just say the M62 at Saddleworth is no place to be in a snowstorm.

Yes, we were all disappointed on Sunday morning when we had to cancel a long-planned family trip to Manchester Christmas market, but even before the snow gates were drawn across the Woodhead Pass, I’d deemed the trip unsafe and unjustifiable.

I’d rather stay at home and stay alive, but evidence suggests that some people think they are invincible – until their car ends up skidding and overturned in a ditch.

Families should not venture out in the snow, says Jayne Dowle, if the NHS is not to be overwhelmed this winter. What's your view?

I was speaking to a friend who works in the fire service recently. He was telling me that the other week, his crew was called out to an elderly lady’s house to break down the door.

This poor soul, who lived alone, had suffered a fall in the bathroom during the night but had to managed to dial 999 on her mobile phone and cover herself with towels to keep warm. She waited six hours for the ambulance to arrive. I’ll say that again. Six hours.

Think of this next time a snowstorm hits. Ask yourself if your actions are putting yourself and others at risk. It’s surely our civic duty to exercise caution and responsibility.

I’ve been speaking to other people at the sharp end of the NHS and emergency services and they all agree that the true extent of the crisis is not being revealed by politicians – perhaps so not to panic the public.

For instance, I have a friend with an urgent and sudden onset medical condition which really needs the diagnosis of an MRI scan. Despite digging deep for a private medical consultation – because the waiting list for an appointment at the local hospital stretched into next year – it has been six weeks now and still no referral for an MRI.

Imagine the worry, the fear and the stress if you knew something was wrong with you and you couldn’t get help? That is the reality for thousands of people right now. And this is before the winter even gets under way and without taking into account the immediate pressures put on all NHS resources by the urgency of rolling out 20m vaccine booster jabs to tackle the threat of Omicron.

A new report by the National Audit Office pulls no punches about the cost of almost two years of pandemic has had on the nation’s health. Overall waiting lists stand at a staggering 5.83 million people, including my friend, waiting for a scan.

Up to 740,000 urgent cancer referrals have been missed. Nearly two million people waiting more than 18 weeks for elective operations, not including my 19-year-son, who likely needs specialist surgery on his hip.

However, his physio told us the other week that there is no point in even sending Jack for a consultation appointment because there is simply no capacity in the NHS for such non-urgent surgery for at least two years.

And, terrifyingly, those waiting lists could grow even longer. Even with £8bn of extra funding to help clear the backlog, the NAO believes at least seven million people will be in the NHS queue by 2025. In the worst case scenario it could reach 12 million people.

In the rush to tackle Omicron, the Prime Minister seems to have forgotten to remind us, so I’ll do it for him. If ever there was a time to stay home and save lives, it’s now. And especially if it snows.

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app, receive exclusive members-only offers and access to all premium content and columns. Click here to subscribe.