Saturday 7 January 2017 11:48 am

The British Red Cross has stepped in to support the NHS, calling it a "humanitarian crisis"

NHS hospitals face a "humanitarian crisis" as A&E departments experience one of their busiest weeks ever, The British Red Cross has said.

The charity has called on the government to invest more in health and social care as its volunteers and staff have been required to help patients get home from hospital.

British Red Cross chief executive Mike Adamson said: "The British Red Cross is on the front line, responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country."

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As NHS hospitals struggle over the tougher winter months, headlines have emerged about patients left to wait on trolleys for hours or, in some cases, days, Reuters reported.

The charity was called in to support the NHS and help transport patients to free up hospital beds, Adamson said.

“This means deploying our team of emergency volunteers and even calling on our partner Land Rover to lend vehicles to transport patients and get the system moving."

Over 24 hours, 14 health trusts warned of overcrowding in their A&E units, which has caused delays to ambulance services, the charity said. Many patients who are fit to leave are unable because they don't have the right care available at home, it added.

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“If people don’t receive the care they need and deserve, they will simply end up returning to A&E, and the cycle begins again," Adamson said.

The British Red Cross has sent volunteers with its support at home service to help the hospitals free up beds.

Charities and politicians have warned that government cuts to social care have resulted in more elderly and vulnerable patients being treated in hospital instead of at home, Reuters reported. That's put hospital beds in high demand.

Dr Mark Porter, chair of council at the British Medical Association said: “The devastating consequences of the lack of commitment to funding for health and social care have become all too apparent and patients are enduring one of the worst winters on record."

A spokeswoman for NHS England told Reuters plans were in place to cope with increased pressure during the winter and that beds were not as full as this time last year.

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