Amid harsh winters and rising demand, UK health authorities said on Monday that people were dying due to inadequate care and urged the government to act as the UK health service tackles the winter strike crisis.
The NHS faced budget constraints for more than a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic severely overwhelmed it.
One in five patients picked up by ambulance in England last week took more than an hour to get to the emergency room, while tens of thousands waited there for more than 12 hours before being treated there.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said on Sunday that between 300 and 500 patients will die each week in emergency rooms, especially due to long waiting times.
His vice president echoed the forecast on Monday, dismissing suggestions that short-term factors caused the crisis, after some hospital officials reversed that claim.
“If you’re on the front lines, you know this has been a problem for a long time … things like this happen every winter and it still comes as a surprise,” Ian Higginson told BBC radio.
The British Medical Association (BMA) on Monday called the current situation “intolerable and unsustainable” as the NHS faces “unbelievably high levels of demand” and said the government must act.
“It is simply not true that this country cannot afford the cost of cleaning up this mess. This is a political choice and patients are dying unnecessarily because of this choice,” said Phil Banfield, Chairman of the Board of the BMA in the UK.
The government attributed the strain on the NHS to the effects of the pandemic and winter illnesses such as the flu.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in his New Year’s message, said his administration has taken “decisive action” and mobilized “record resources” to address the NHS’s problems and staffing shortages.
But the government has recently embarked on a fiscal austerity policy and rejected a demand for higher wages for nurses as inflation in the UK has been in excess of 10 per cent for months.
Nurses went on strike for the first time in union history last month.