AN ACTION plan to avoid a crisis in A&E this winter is not enough to ease the huge pressures looming for our hospitals, say campaigners.

Already burdened by significant staff shortages, hundreds of hospital beds out-of-action and long waiting times, residents and councillors are concerned measures to help ease the burden of the winter months will make little difference to either social care or emergency services.

Plans include boosting the number of pharmacists in care homes, making more GP appointments available and taking steps to more quickly decide who actually needs to visit A&E.

Larry Sanders, a Green Party candidate for the 2017 elections and brother of US senator Bernie Sanders, said regardless of these new plans patients will still suffer.

He said: "I respect the enormous effort that has gone into these plans to try and tackle the problems we face.

"But if we read between the lines, we simply do not have the resources to make it work.

"We have a shortage of beds, doctors, nurses and care home places.

"These excellent reports do not show what can be done but rather what cannot be done."

With winter on the horizon, the county's health trust is also facing problems in A&E.

The number of patients attending compared to this time last year has risen by 1.45 per cent, meaning an additional 1,108 patients.

In September, only 84.55 per cent of patients were seen within the four-hour target at A&E - 10 per cent below the national target.

Health bosses, who drew up the plans, told members of the Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) yesterday they were 'cautiously confident' about what was on the table.

They discussed increasing pharmacist's presence in care homes to prevent people being taken to hospital, creating additional GP appointments on particularly busy days and placing GPs in emergency departments to help decide who needed to be seen by hospital doctors.

Chief operating officer at Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Diane Hedges said there were significant challenges the health system would have to over come.

She said: "We have to be really realistic about this situation. I am cautiously confident.

"I am not going to sit here and tell you all it is going to be easy, we are aware of the challenges we have got in the system.

"We have a massive workforce challenge, which has forced bed closures that none of us wanted to happen. We want to do further risk assessments to see if we can safety re-open beds.

"We also have a growing population, living longer and having to deal with this increased demand and complicated needs of patients every year."

The shortage of beds in the county's hospitals has had a knock-on effect on the number of beds that are being used.

National guidance advises hospitals to operate at around 85 per cent, but in Oxfordshire it is as high as 94 per cent.

Ms Hedges told the committee Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH), which runs the John Radcliffe Hospital, had put forward a separate proposal to help with bed occupancy.

She added: "There is a proposal to open a bed on every ward if the trust reaches 100 per cent bed capacity."

Benedict Leigh from Oxfordshire County Council said for social care there were three main initiatives.

He said: "We are funding flu jabs for every social care worker in the county should they wish to have it, in the hope of sustaining a healthy workforce.

"We are running a workforce recruitment campaign with other health bodies and we are working closely with providers to share and encourage good practice."

Chairman of HOSC Oxfordshire County Councillor Arash Fatemian said he appreciated the innovation in the plans but held similar concerns over its effectiveness.

He said: "My personal view is that some of the initiatives in here are tried and tested and you are pretending it will make a difference.

"But I think there are some innovative solutions that we will hopefully see the benefit of."