Responding to the call for a £500m winter bail-out for the NHS, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation has called for support for "every part of the system".

“In many ways the winter crisis is actually now an all year round crisis with hospitals and Emergency Departments struggling to meet demand and with bed occupancy at unsustainable and unsafe levels," he said. "Although additional money is always welcome, in terms of the next few months there is a limit to how much additional resources can make a difference. In many cases Trusts are simply not able to recruit the staff they need.

“Last year we were fortunate with the weather and the absence of a major virus – this year we may not be so lucky. 

“We need to recognise just how dependent each part of the system is on other services – struggling or non-existent social care, shortages of community nurses and hard pressed GPs and mental health services will all have an impact on each other and on the Emergency Department.

"This must not just be left to Emergency Departments - every part of the system, from medical and nursing staff throughout hospitals, to all community and care services will be gearing up to do what they can to help during the next few months and they must be given all support that is possible – but we continue to argue that the system needs both reform and significant additional funding if it is to cope with the challenges of the next few years.”

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