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Dr Stuart Withington
"There are going to be problems this year"
 real 28k

Monday, 4 December, 2000, 10:00 GMT
NHS crisis 'here already'
Royal London Hospital
Dr Withington works at the Royal London Hospital
The government is making huge efforts to try to avoid a crisis in the NHS this winter. However, one top health worker warns that the service is already suffering from serious problems.

Dr Stuart Withington, director of intensive care at the Royal London Hospital, says his unit is already struggling to cope with demand.

He told the BBC: "I think things have improved marginally, but I still think there are going to be major problems this year.

there are going to be major problems this year

Dr Stuart Withington, Royal London Hospital
"We have opened two of our three extra intensive care beds that the government gave us funding for, and I am in no doubt that we will open a third before Christmas.

"But this is just too little, too late, really. We are seeing crisis every day in intensive care, cancelled operations, refused emergency admissions, non-clinical transfers to other units. It is just a battle zone every day."

Full up

Dr Withington said at the end of last week the hospital was running its full quota of 15 intensive care beds.

"It was full, and we had three emergencies in the A&E department all needing critical care, and we cancelled routine elective surgery."

He said the government had made extra money available, but the allocation was only announced in August, and had to be spent by 1 December.

"Even with the best will in the world you cannot recruit nursing and medical staff within that time frame.

"It was not a strategically planned manoeuvre. I think it was a knee jerk reaction to stop the government getting egg on its face again."

Dr Withington said the hospital had succeeded in attracting new nurses, but had been unable to prevent experienced staff from leaving.

"The government really needs to think very hard about nurses' salaries, and accommodation in very costly inner cities."

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04 Dec 00 | Health
NHS's winter battle plan unveiled
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