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Monday, 19 March, 2001, 13:03 GMT
'NHS coped well this winter'
Trolley
Most hospitals coped better this winter than in previous years
Hospitals coped more effectively with the inevitable surge in demand this winter, a government report says.

Part of the reason was the fact that there was no serious outbreak of flu this year - which was in part due to the mass vaccination programme introduced by the government.

NHS chief executive Nigel Crisp has carried out a detailed analysis of how the NHS and social care sector performed this winter.

Mr Crisp found that, despite low levels of flu, the NHS was just as busy as in previous years - and at times even busier.


Increased planning and extra investment have made a difference

Tony Blair
However, despite this there was a 75% reduction in the number of patients waiting over 12 hours for admission to hospital.

The number of cases where hospitals had to transfer critically ill patients because they were full up fell by 19%.

More patients were treated at home, ensuring that fewer NHS beds were blocked by patients who could not receive adequate treatment elsewhere.

More use was also made of spare capacity in the private sector.

Encouraging

Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking at the Royal College of General Practitioners on Monday, said: "It makes on the whole encouraging reading.

"Increased planning and extra investment have made a difference."

Mr Blair said although the lack of a flu epidemic made a difference, the report showed that in 14 of the 17 winter weeks hospitals coped with more emergency admissions than last year.

"Despite the notion that this year was somehow far easier than year, on the contrary the pressures were every bit as great, if not greater."

Mr Blair admitted, however, that certain hospitals did find it difficult to cope.

"There have been particular hot spots around the country. Staff shortages are a particular problem in certain areas, and if you are one of those patients who did wait too long, or you had your operation cancelled then of course it is no consolation to you to know that the majority of people were not in that position."

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See also:

01 Nov 00 | Health
NHS predicts 'serious pressure'
11 Oct 00 | Health
NHS appoints new chief executive
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