Saturday, 07 January 2023 11:37

UK PM calls crisis talks as healthcare system buckles under pressure

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LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gathered government ministers, medics and health service managers in 10 Downing St. on Saturday for talks aimed at fixing a healthcare crisis that has seen thousands of patients stranded outside overflowing hospitals.

The government said it was “bringing together the best minds from the health and care sectors to help share knowledge and practical solutions.”

The opposition Labour Party dismissed the gathering as “a talking shop,” and experts warned there are no quick fixes for long-brewing problems in the state-funded National Health Service.

Britain's health system faces an inferno of pressures, including rising demand for care after pandemic restrictions were eased; a surge in flu and other winter viruses after two lockdown years; and staff shortages from pandemic burnout and a post-Brexit drought of European workers in the UK.

Thousands of hospital beds are occupied by people who are fit to be discharged but have nowhere to go because of a dearth of places for long-term care.

Official figures show that last week only a third of patients ready to be released from a hospital in England actually left.

That has led to ambulances stuck outside hospitals with patients who can't be admitted, and in turn to people with health emergencies waiting hours for ambulances to arrive.

Health leaders say the delays have likely led to hundreds of deaths.

On top of that, a cost-of-living crisis fuelled by soaring food and energy bills has left some health workers struggling to make ends meet. Nurses and ambulance crews have staged walkouts, part of the country's biggest wave of strikes in decades.