NHS to send 3,000 patients stuck in hospital to care homes in a week

NHS crisis: Dr Hilary Jones reads out messages from doctors

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The NHS has plans to transfer 3,000 hospital patients to care homes within a week to reduce massive bed backlogs sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic, decades of government cuts, a heavy flu season and staff and bed shortages. Thousands more will be sent to care homes in the next few weeks to free up hospital beds for patients from A&E wards. Health Secretary Stephen Barclay is expected to lay out plans on Monday for releasing a quarter of the 13,000 medically healthy people who are confined to wards but do not require hospitalisation.

Health chiefs believe between 2,000 and 3,000 hospital beds could be cleared, allowing more capacity for urgent care.

Preparations come as more than 40 percent of ambulance crews were forced to wait for up to an hour to hand over patients in the week leading up to January 1.

Speaking to The Independent, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Pat Cullen warned that Rishi Sunak’s pledge to reduce the waiting list would fail without proper funding and said the upcoming strike would be the biggest of its kind in history. 

After cancelling 30,000 operations and appointments in December, nurses are poised to go on strikes in January amid a long-standing dispute over pay. The RCN has been demanding 19 percent pay rise, which has been dismissed as “unaffordable” by the Government. 

“The Government had the opportunity to end this dispute before Christmas, but instead they have chosen to push nursing staff out into the cold again in January,” said Ms Cullen.

She added: “I do not wish to prolong this dispute, but the Prime Minister has left us with no choice.”

The RCN general secretary warned the upcoming strikes could be the biggest Britain has ever seen. 

She told The Independent: “We balloted around 320,000 nursing staff and my understanding is it has been the largest ballot of nursing staff in the world and it is the largest nursing strike in the world. We’ve also increased the number of organisations [such as NHS Trusts]. There are now 70 involved. First time around it was 46.”

In a bid to tackle the pressures in the NHS, Rishi Sunak discussed “crucial challenges” with health leaders from across England on Saturday last weekend, Downing Street said. 

Mr Sunak said hearing examples of parts of the health service where “things are going well” gave him “enormous confidence”, and added that “together today, we can figure out the things that will make the biggest difference to the country and everyone’s family, in the short and medium term”.

He called on health service chiefs to take “bold and radical action” to tackle the crisis in the NHS.

After weeks of failed talks with unions, Mr Barclay has suggested health workers could get a bigger pay rise in April – if unions accept “productivity and efficiency” reforms in return.

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Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Barclay said he remains “ready to engage” with striking unions on how the government can “support the workforce”.

Mr Barclay also said he “looked forward” to discussing with unions how any settlement on pay could be made “more affordable, where there are productivity and efficiency opportunities”.

In his op-ed, Mr Barclay pledged to take further steps to “improve the flow through our hospitals” on Monday.

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