NHS at “breaking point”, doctors and nurses say

11 Jan 17

Nurses and doctors have added their voices to concerns about pressures in the NHS, with nurses’ leaders warning that staff are at “breaking point”.

Over the weekend, Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, called conditions in the NHS a “humanitarian crisis” and in a statement to MPs on Monday health secretary Jeremy Hunt said he would water down the four-hour target for A&E departments. He argued it should only apply to urgent cases and has since urged patients to avoid inappropriate visits to A&E.

The Royal College of Nursing canvassed its members for views from the frontline and today released some of their comments. One sister in a trauma centre said patients were waiting more than 12 hours for a bed and staff were feeling “broken and distressed”.

Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “How long does the government think the NHS can survive on the dedication and good will of staff who are at breaking point?

“We have heard from frontline nurses who want to give the best care they can for their patients but are being told to discharge patients before they are fit just to free up beds.

“It’s a vicious circle with community health and social care also struggling to cope with demand.”

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Physicians have written to prime minister Theresa May warning her that health service resources are struggling to keep pace with demand.

“Our NHS is underfunded, underdoctored and overstretched. The ambulances queuing outside emergency departments are a visual testament to the crisis in social care and the NHS,” the letter, signed by RCP president Professor Jane Dacre and 49 council members, states.

It goes on to warn that services are too often “paralysed by spiralling demand” to transform and modernise.

“Promises of future investment will not address the very real challenges we face going into 2017: the time to invest is now.”

The health professionals’ warnings came as the National Audit Office published a report on the government’s ambitions to expand access to primary care.

The auditors conclude that the Department of Health and NHS England have set some challenging objectives and increased available funding but have not evaluated the cost-effectiveness of proposals. Their report also says existing services have not consistently provided value for money.

It notes that the DH has a limited understanding of pressures in general practice, but also highlights that local commissioners are often in weak positions and have limited levers to manage performance and restructure services.

“Without a more co-ordinated approach and stronger incentives to secure the desired results, the NHS is unlikely to get optimal value for money,” said NAO head Amyas Morse.

Read the latest PF Perspectives on the future of health and social care here

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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