Older woman being discharged from hospital

There have been lots of stories in the media recently about the pressures faced by hospitals across the UK. During this busy period, the British Red Cross stepped-up some of our existing health and social care services to help. We also pointed out that the health and social care crisis could get worse without urgent action.  

We’ve been listening to the debates and your comments on social media. Here are a few answers to some of the key issues raised.

Why has the Red Cross been deployed to help the NHS now?

The Red Cross actually has a long-standing relationship with the NHS. We have been providing health and social care services in hospital and at home since the NHS was first established, almost 70 years ago.

All year round we support the NHS by providing ambulances and short-term wheelchair loans.

We also run over 160 hospital and community services across the UK, and are present in more than 20 A&E departments across the UK.

These services focus on helping to free-up hospital beds, keep people flowing in and out of hospital, and ensure people get the support they need to live confidently and independently in their own homes.

A&E departments warned of overcrowding recently, so we responded in some areas by boosting our services.

We provided ambulances, helped identify more people who were fit to leave hospital, and made sure more volunteers were ready to take these people home safely.

Why is the current crisis happening now?

Health and social care services in the UK are facing many challenges. An ageing population, increasingly stretched resources, cuts to funding for social care, and overcoming cultural barriers to change have all contributed to the crisis we are witnessing now.

When people have a lack of basic support at home, this can end up resulting in pressures on hospitals and the health care system. It has now reached crisis point.

Addressing the issues in social care can help alleviate some of the pressure faced by the NHS and could even save the public purse money.

So what are you actually doing to help?

We run services that focus on helping to free-up hospital beds and keep people flowing in and out of hospital. These vary slightly depending on people’s needs and where they live.

So we might take one person home from hospital and check they’ve got everything they need over a period of 72 hours (like Derek).

In other cases, someone might need a bit more support over a period of days or weeks (like Raymond). Or, if someone needs more support still, we can help them get this too (like Joyce).

If someone has already returned home from hospital, or perhaps stayed at home during illness but now needs extra support, we can help in a similar way through our support at home services.

We are also helping the NHS by providing ambulances and lending wheelchairs on a short-term basis.

Each year, we support over 200,000 people across our independent living services.

What do you want to be done about the situation?

More needs to be done about social care funding. Cuts to social care are putting additional strain on the NHS. A lack of care at home and in the community means too many people have nowhere else to go for care and support.

Before the autumn statement, as part of the Care and Support Alliance, we urged the government to finally give social care the funding priority it deserves.

That didn’t happen, but social care needs immediate funding to stabilise the current system and real steps towards creating a sustainable funding settlement for the future.

A long term, person-centred solution, must be developed in partnership, across parties, professionals and other organisations.