YORK Hospital's boss says the growing pressures facing his organisation are a symptom of a national problem - made worse by North Yorkshire's fast growing elderly population.

Patrick Crowley, chief executive of York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, claims the difficulties cannot be attributed to a failure of hospital management and clinical services.

Mr Crowley has written to The Press after we reported this week that the hospital was close to crisis, with some patients facing 12-hour waits in A&E, a ward closed with norovirus, an exceptionally busy eight days and almost 200 more patients than expected at the emergency department.

He said: "The situation described in the article is a symptom of what is happening nationally. This is not in itself about A&E but how the health and social care system functions overall."

He said the whole system was under stress due to a tangible lack of resources, difficulty with recruitment, and growing and changing demand.

"North Yorkshire is one of the most challenged communities in this respect, due in large part to our rurality, and a fast growing elderly population," he said.

"All our partner organisations recognise the need to develop our services to meet this challenge but this is not easy in such a demanding environment and will take time."

He said he had been predicting such difficulties for some time. "Given the scale of the problem, it cannot continue to be attributed to the failure of hospital management teams and clinical services, amongst other things it is a result of changes to policy, a failure to recognise the profound implications of demographic change, and working within a sometimes fragmented service."

He claimed the finger could not be pointed at any one part of the system and instead there needed to be an 'honest debate' at a local, regional and national level, a recognition of the challenge facing hospitals and a sustained drive to develop services that were fit for purpose.

Read Mr Crowley's letter in full here