The BMA has issued its starkest warning yet on the 'crisis' facing the NHS.
Commenting on the publication of NHS England’s 'winter health check' which shows record numbers of patients waiting longer for treatment in emergency departments, and emergency admissions at the highest they've been since records began over a decade ago, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair said:
“Patients should be treated on the basis of clinical need rather than an arbitrary target, but these figures point to a system cracking under extreme pressure, leading to unacceptable delays in care.
“While the NHS is used to seeing a spike in demand during winter months, this year it’s experienced a spring, summer and autumn crisis as well, leaving no spare capacity in hospitals as we hit winter.
“This is not just a crisis in emergency care – bed shortages and high numbers of patients inappropriately in hospital beds are now major stress factors on the system, leading to unacceptable delays in treating and discharging patients. Outside of hospitals, GP surgeries are struggling to cope with unprecedented levels of demand.
“Front-line staff are working flat-out but the system can’t cope with the sheer number of patients coming through the door. So far there has been a total failure by government to come up with a meaningful plan to deal with this – funding announced recently to tackle winter pressures is simply recycled money, taken from other overstretched services.
“To alleviate pressure on the system we need to ensure people are better supported to self-care where appropriate, and that they get the right advice first time round on where to seek treatment so as to avoid unnecessary trips to A&E. An effective out-of-hours telephone service is crucial to this, yet NHS 111 is still falling short of the mark because it isn’t clinician-led. We also need a system-wide approach which addresses the flow of patients across the NHS.
“There is no getting away from the fact that the NHS needs more investment to ensure there are enough staff and resources to meet rising demand, and part of this means taking urgent action to address the high number of staff vacancies in emergency medicine as well as general practice.”