Symptomatic of the extent to which the entire NHS is propped up by the goodwill of staff, it is also indicative of the need for far closer collaboration between all care services.
And, in many respects, the concerns outlined by officials from Unison – the public services trade union – stem, in part, from two factors totally outside the control of 999 medics and call centre staff.
The first is those occurrences where ambulances become an extension of A&E waiting rooms because of a shortage of beds, staff or a combination of both. Until a patient is formally admitted into the care of a hospital, their health and wellbeing remains the responsibility of ambulance personnel.
But every hour off the road simply adds to the relentless workload of other crews – a state of affairs not helped by very patchy out-of-hours GP cover that is prompting more people to dial 999 or, in many cases, travel to A&E with relatively minor ailments that would not, in normal circumstances, require hospital treatment.
And it is this particular ‘postcode lottery’ that needs to be one of Ms Pritchard’s top priorities as she succeeds Simon Stevens.
GPs are the gateway to the NHS – and doctors’ surgeries play a critical role in making sure patients receive care that is commensurate with their immediate health needs.
Yet, as they, too, struggle to come to terms with the pressures that Covid have placed on them, including a need to prioritise the vaccine programme, it is now in the wider interests of the NHS that all local surgeries return to some semblance of normality as soon as it is feasibly possible to do so. Over to you, Ms Pritchard.
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