Charities called in to help ward off NHS winter crisis

In an attempt to ward off an NHS winter crisis this year, eight charities including the British Red Cross are being called in to help ensure the elderly are looked after without needing to go into hospitals.

NHS England will inject £2 million to the scheme, which will see charities such as Age UK and Royal Voluntary Service develop and run projects to support the elderly to avoid falls and other winter-related health issues.

The scheme will also lend more support to those who have been discharged from hospital.

The plans were announced after it was revealed that the number of patients who were forced to wait at least 18 weeks for treatment was at a level not seen for six years.

In June of this year, 32,500 patients waited at least that long, NHS data showed, while overall waiting lists reached 3.2 million people. Of this number, more than 500 patients had been waiting over a year for operations or treatments that had been pre-planned.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that 100,000 additional treatments and operations would be carried out this summer in order to curtail the problem.

However, the Department of Health admitted this week that it would be “a while” before the target is met, as a result of the sheer number of people waiting.