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Hospital board investigates spike in unexpected deaths

Campaigners warn under-funding of NHS risks disaster

20 January, 2017 — By Tom Foot

The Whittington Hospital in Archway

HOSPITAL chiefs have reported a spike in unexpected deaths and warned of “immense pressure” on the NHS during the winter months.

Board papers at the Whittington show there were five fatalities classed as “serious incidents” in November – more than for the whole rest of the year combined. A report said “inappropriate” referrals and “delays in diagnosis” were factors in two of the deaths, while another patient was “found unresponsive” outside the hospital following a wait for transport to another unit.

The Whittington also reported a rare “12-hour trolley breach” in A&E – a patient enduring a “prolonged wait in the emergency department due to lack of bed availability”.

Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition chairwoman Shirley Franklin said the blame lay with the government for under-funding hospitals and said it was a “disgrace” that the NHS was “on its last legs”.

She added: “This government must fund our NHS to meet all our physical and mental health needs and increase the level of social care funding.”

In the board papers, Whittington chief executive Simon Pleydell said there were “extreme pressures within the emergency care pathway” and that this had been particularly acute in November.

He said: “We know that many staff have been facing immense pressures because of patient flow issues through our hospital, and, whilst we know that many colleagues have been working hard to reduce these pressures, we want to do more to support our teams.” He added that the Trust’s financial position “continues to remain very concerning”.

At the Royal Free Hospital, board chiefs have announced an unprecedented financial deficit and warned that it could not afford to keep operating the way it is now.

“The underlying theme was that the system could not afford the level of activity currently going through hospitals,” said the report.

The Hampstead hospital’s finance chiefs announced their accounts are “£47.4m worse than the planned surplus of £3.1m”. The board said this had partly been caused by a “funding loss” under the “Sustainability Transformation Programme”. A row over the STP – a five-year plan for how the health system will be funded – has already triggered protests in Camden.

The Keep Our NHS campaign group say the health service has reached “breaking point” because of “gross underfunding” and are calling for a major turnout at a national demonstration to save the NHS on March 4.

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