A top doctor based at Huddersfield and Calderdale hospitals has called for Jeremy Hunt to go.
Consultant in acute medicine, Dr Nick Scriven, has said NHS chiefs did little more than “cross fingers” and hope winter would be okay despite months of warnings from people on the frontline that the service was set to crumble.
And Dr Scriven, whose job includes handling the most critically ill patients arriving at local A&Es, warned that conditions were likely to worsen further now temperatures have dropped.
Speculation has been building today that Jeremy Hunt, who has been Secretary of State for Health since 2012, is set to be replaced by junior health minister, Anne Milton, who is a former nurse.
Speaking in his capacity as president of the Society for Acute Medicine, he said: “Without doubt the figures for the next week will show the true magnitude of the system crisis that has engulfed the NHS.
“It must be emphasised that it is a whole system problem that is hitting all sectors of the NHS and not just the emergency department where the targets are measured – and this is despite the heroic efforts of health care staff of all disciplines and grades.
“We must point out that this was predicted.
“The Society for Acute Medicine published press releases and statements in October, November and December 2017 warning exactly of this scenario.
“When we warned the NHS could break far worse this winter and that it seemed there was nothing new in terms of preparations than crossed fingers, the health secretary disagreed and stated more preparations had been made this winter than ever before.
“When our perspective was reiterated in November, with particular focus on the potential winter chaos ahead and a lack of direction from the Secretary of State, we were criticised by NHS England for making “claims” that carried “distinctly political overtones”.
“However, the fact is the social care crisis, reduction in bed numbers and recruitment issues along with the subsequent intensity of pressure in January, demonstrates we were right to raise these concerns.
“They should have been met with genuine interest – not hot air and rhetoric that is out of touch with activity on the ground and the views from the frontline.”
He added: “The temperature is set to drop again and looks like it will be below the 5°C mark, which statistics show means more illness and more hospital attendances to come.
“While some of the statements from medical professionals have been overzealous and hyperbolic, particularly comparing our multi-million pound hospitals to third world care, the government and healthcare bodies would benefit from listening to the concerns and potential solutions being raised by clinicians and taking appropriate action.”