During this current spell of hot summer weather, the cold, dark months of winter seem a long way away.
But those already preparing for what the end of the year will bring are hospitals across Yorkshire, where staff will be doing their best to avoid a repeat of last year, which has been described as ‘the toughest-ever winter’ faced by the NHS.
New figures obtained by The Yorkshire Post highlight just how serious the situation became in this region, with a number of local trusts forced to issue high-level safety alerts as a surge in demand on hospital emergency departments.
Hospitals in Bradford and Harrogate had alerts in place for months at a time, while Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust had to go as far as declaring a “black alert” on two days in February.
But while it is clear that the winter months often bring about a surge in demand for health services, the British Medical Association warned last week that health services actually face an “all-year” crisis, thanks to issues such as a lack of available beds and problems recruiting enough doctors.
Although patients have an important role to play in selecting the right services for treatment and avoiding accident and emergency departments unless absolutely necessary to help reduce pressure on the system, such action alone will merely be a sticking plaster unless wider systemic challenges are addressed. Even with Theresa May’s recent announcement of an extra £20.5bn for the NHS over the next five years, it seems unlikely that a repeat of last year’s winter crisis will be avoided.