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Hospitals and ambulance services across England are under ‘enormous pressure’ fueled by ‘high demand’, ‘severe’ staff shortages and soaring Covid cases, officials have warned health after NHS trusts covering millions of patients reported critical incidents.

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy for the NHS Confederation, which represents the whole health system, said the situation had become so serious that “all parts” of the health service were now becoming “burdened”. This will have a “direct ripple effect” on the ability of staff to tackle the backlog of care, she added, as well as the current provision of emergency and emergency care.

She sounded the alarm after a major ambulance trust, the South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), which covers 7million people in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Sussex and Surrey , said a critical incident after “extreme pressures” forced him to prioritize patients with life-threatening illnesses.

At the same time, six hospitals in Yorkshire have issued a joint warning for people to stay away from emergency services except in ‘real life-threatening situations’ after an increase in numbers left some patients wait up to 12 hours.

“With almost 20,000 people in hospital with coronavirus in England, these latest critical incidents show how the pressure on our health services is once again increasing,” said McCay. “Ambulances, A&E services and frontline care providers in all parts of the NHS are weighed down by high demand.

“Health officials and their exhausted teams are doing all they can to get patients the treatment they need, but with 110,000 vacancies in the NHS they also need urgent government support to cope with the severe labor shortages. With one in 13 people now positive for Covid and cases still on the rise in the elderly, as we learn to ‘live with Covid’ there will be a direct ripple effect on the NHS’s ability to tackle to waiting lists.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS providers, said NHS trusts ‘across England’ were under ‘huge pressure’ caused by the growing number of people with Covid-19 in hospital, a very high number of occupied beds, staff absences and severe labor shortages. “Trusted leaders and everyone in the NHS are acutely aware of the impact of delays and addressing it is a top priority,” she added.

The SCAS declared a critical incident on Wednesday after a huge volume of calls the day before and asked people to only call 999 in serious or life-threatening emergencies.

Mark Ainsworth, Director of Operations at SCAS, said: “We declared a critical incident in the early hours of the morning due to extreme pressure on our services.

“This was related to the level of demand with a large number of calls received throughout the day and into the night, and increased challenges in releasing some of our ambulances from busy acute hospitals. This then impacts our ability to get teams back on the road to respond to patients. »

Meanwhile, hospital trusts in West Yorkshire and Harrogate (in North Yorkshire) – an area covering more than 2.5 million people – said the current pressures left them with no choice but to prioritize patients with acute illness or injury.

The West Yorkshire Association of Acute Trusts (WYAAT) said its most recent emergency service figures showed a 14.2% increase in attendance, compared to the same week last year.

Dr Andrew Lockey, emergency medicine consultant at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘Our hospitals are extremely busy and people are having to wait a long time to be seen.

“Over the past two weeks, we have faced huge challenges with the sharp increase in the number of people showing up in accidents and emergencies. This puts additional pressure on our teams who are responsible for dealing with patients with serious and life-threatening illnesses.

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