Hospitals besieged and overloaded as winter health crisis strikes again

Sunday January 14 2018

Jeremy Hunt

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament's Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain's Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt speaking during the Opposition Day Debate: NHS Winter Crisis session in the House of Commons in central London on January 10, 2018. PHOTO | PRU AND AFP  

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It seems to happen every year, a winter health crisis with hospitals desperately trying to handle an endless flow of patients, sick people waiting as long as 12 hours on trolleys in crowded corridors and ambulances queuing up outside to discharge even more.

All non-emergency surgery in January — an estimated 50,000 operations — was ordered cancelled in hospitals across the nation at least until February as the winter flu spiked.

In addition, some areas in the north of the country were hit by the noro virus, causing wards in some hospitals to be closed. Known as the winter vomiting bug, the noro virus is highly contagious. Elsewhere, the H3N2 flu strain was detected. Commonly called the Aussie flu, it caused Australia’s worst ever influenza crisis in 2017.

What has worsened the situation, according to campaigners, is the closure of many medical walk-in centres, where relatively minor ailments can be dealt with, thus relieving the pressure on hospital accident and emergency departments.


According to critics, 95 walk-in centres have been closed in recent years. “This will be driving some of the pressure that is pushing A&E units to breaking point,” said Liberal Democratic MP Norman Lamb. Closures were aimed at keeping spending within local budget levels, he said, but the consequences were disastrous.

The introduction of drunk tanks nationwide is also being considered as a means of keeping pressure off A&E departments on weekend nights. As for the causes of the annual winter crisis, experts point to the problems of an ageing population. One million more people are now over 65 than five years ago.

Lifestyle factors are also highlighted, including excessive use of alcohol, especially during the festive season, and the continuing problem of obesity.

Although the National Health Service budget has been protected, there have been cuts in social services which have a knock-on effect on hospitals.


Getting to the church on time is a classic problem for brides and one Church of England vicar thinks he has the answer: He charges £100 if they are late.

Canon John Corbyn spotted a similar scheme during a sabbatical in Uganda. This is how it works: He adds £100 to the overall fee for the wedding ceremony. If the bride and groom arrive in time, he hands back a cheque for £100 along with the wedding certificate.


If bride or groom are more than 20 minutes late (and it is usually the bride), the £100 is distributed to the choir, the organist, the vergers and bell ringers.

The canon introduced the scheme at his church, Holy Cross, in Bearsted, Kent, after two brides were more than 20 minutes late, without explanation or apology.

Canon Corbyn hit the headlines in 2003 when he banned strapless wedding gowns in his church. The ban remains in effect. “They can wear strapless gowns,” he says, “providing they put something on top to cover up.”


A constant problem for most parents is getting over-excited children to sleep, especially at times like Christmas.

Desperate mums and dads searching for a solution may be interested to know of the following ideas which, according to sleep researchers, have actually been tried, with varying degrees of success: 1. Listen to an hour-long recording of people yawning. 2. Watch a slow-motion film of sheep grazing. 3. Put the kid in the car and drive around for a few hours. 4. Put a ticking clock under the child’s pillow to mimic the mother’s heartbeat. 5.


Put an item of clothing that smells of the mother in the child’s bed. 6. Hum the national anthem. 7. Run a vacuum cleaner in another room. 8. Watch a video of a sloth climbing a tree. 9. Invent an imaginary bogeyman such as “The 8 o’clock Man,” who steals any children still awake after 8 pm.

If all these fail, sit the child up and explain in detail the infrastructure plans of China’s leader, Xi Jinping.


A psychologist is advertising a video that teaches you how to test your dog’s IQ. Here’s how it works: If you spend £14.99 for the video, your dog is smarter than you are.

A scientist tells a pharmacist, “I need some tablets of acetylsalicylic acid.” Pharmacist: “You mean aspirin?” The scientist slaps his forehead: “That’s it! I can never remember the name.”

“How long will it take to extract my tooth?” asks the nervous patient. “Just one minute,” says the dentist. “And how much will it cost?” “Fifty pounds.” “Fifty pounds!” exclaims the patient, “For just one minute!” “Well,” says the dentist, “if you prefer, I can make it last an hour.”

Patient to optometrist: “Is it true that eating carrots improves your eyesight?” Answer: “Have you ever seen a rabbit wearing glasses?”