Extra funding needed to avoid '˜year-round crisis' in the NHS

EXTRA FUNDING is needed to avoid a year-round 'crisis' in the NHS, leading doctors have warned, as new analysis showed patients endured the worst winter on record.

Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

The British Medical Association (BMA) said all key performance markers showed a health system “that is struggling to cope with demand”, with targets consistently missed and A&E attendances, waiting times, trolley waits and bed occupancy levels all increasing.

The body said doctors had told them how they were “dreading” arriving in work in the morning and seeing patients “lining the corridors awaiting treatment”. Others spoke of admin staff being used to help in a clinical capacity and gaps in rotas.

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From December 2017 to February this year, there were 7.9m attendances at all A&Es, a rise of 3.9 per cent on the previous winter, the BMA said.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul

Performance against the four-hour wait target continued to deteriorate, falling from 87.2 per cent in 2016/17 to 85 per cent this winter.

The Yorkshire Post has previously reported that winter figures for some regional trusts fell even lower over winter - down to just 68.9 per cent at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust in January, down from 79 per cent in December. Mid Yorkshire Hospitals saw just 78.8 per cent of A&E patients in January, and Hull and East Yorkshire saw 77.7 per cent.

The BMA figures show more trolley waits of four or more hours recorded between December and March of this winter than in the same months of 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14 combined.

A survey by the association showed more than four out of five doctors felt their place of work was under-resourced; and over half said there workload was higher than previous winters.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said the figures showed “just how critical” the crisis in the NHS had become.

“Congestion and delays are having a profound impact on patients’ experience of the NHS and means frontline staff are left working under the most challenging of conditions,” he said.

“This winter once again exposed the limitations of trying to plan and prepare for record levels of demand. Even after cancelling tens of thousands of operations, beds remained full, which shows that you can’t continuously plug gaps by penny pinching and poaching from elsewhere in an overstretched service.

“Our health spending lags behind that of other similar European countries so the government must urgently increase spending to address systemic pressures, and review its long-term strategy for the health service. As the NHS enters a state of year-round crisis - the time for action by government is now.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister and Health and Social Care Secretary have committed to a long term plan with a sustainable multi-year settlement for the NHS to help it manage growing patient demand, which will be agreed with NHS leaders, clinicians, and health experts.

“It is encouraging to see that thanks to the hardwork and dedication of NHS staff there has been some improvement in A&E waiting times, treating nearly 2,500 more patients a day within four hours this month compared to March 2018.”

The BMA report comes as it is claimed that promises to bring more patient care closer to home by prioritising NHS community services have fallen flat.

NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts in England, said the expansion of community services to help people to stay well in their own homes has failed to materialise, with those that do exist being overstretched, underfunded and understaffed.

Chief executive, Chris Hopson, said it is patients who are paying the price as the rest of the health and care system struggles to keep up with rising demand for treatment.