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A survey reveals just under three-quarters believe they will not be able to provide the level of care they want this winter.

Around three-quarters of medics in urgent and acute care believe hospitals are not prepared to cope over the next six months, a survey has found.

In addition, just under three-quarters (70%) believe they will not be able to provide the level of care they want over the same period.

The findings come from a snapshot survey conducted by the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM), which represents clinicians working in acute medical units across the UK.

Dr Nick Scriven, former president of SAM, said the NHS was already reaching a “tipping point” with rising admissions of COVID-19 patients – even before the “routine challenges of winter”, such as flu, norovirus and other illnesses.

He warned, despite the major role of acute medical units in easing the pressure off emergency departments by saving bed space, the specialist facilities were “at risk”.

SDEC units are designed to alleviate pressure on emergency departments and bed capacity by providing urgent care without the need for overnight stays.

Slightly over a third of those surveyed (34%) said SDEC was functioning effectively.

The limitations facing SDEC included reduced bed availability due to social distancing, admitted patients occupying beds and restricted staff numbers due to redeployment and sickness.

Dr Scriven said: “Acute medical units have been at the forefront of looking after probably the majority of those hospitalised with COVID-19, including delivering advanced respiratory care, so the views of our members are deeply concerning.”

He added, with ongoing COVID-19 work and rising rates of infections, hospitals’ workforces would be “pressed even harder”.

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