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Few doctors involved in winter planning, poll finds

Only 29% asked to play a role, says RCP

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 26 November 2018

Less than a third of doctors were asked to take part in winter planning, a new poll shows.

The survey results, revealed today by the Royal College of Physicians, show that only 29% of participants say they have been asked to take part in planning for winter, despite last winter being one of the worst on record for the NHS and extra pressure over summer due to the heatwave.

The same poll reveals that over half (56%) of participants are ‘worried’ or ‘very worried’ about the ability of their service to deliver safe patient care this winter, with only 17% saying they are confident or very confident. 

The poll of UK foundation doctors, trainees, consultants and SAS doctors, conducted from 14–21 November 2018, also found that doctors didn't know how emergency funding for social care will help. Only 66 of the 1,737 respondents say they know how it will be used to reduce the pressure on their hospital, from providing beds in the community to employing more carers.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Andrew Goddard, RCP president, said: “We know the government and NHS are doing much more to plan for winter than they were prior to 2017/18. We also know that staff will continue to go above and beyond this winter. But it’s critical that they feel valued.

“We urge trusts to take this opportunity to share their plans with staff now, and adapt them where possible based on feedback from the frontline. We need to feel confident that these plans are in place so we can get on with the job of providing direct clinical care. When we’re concerned that the wheels could fall off any moment, the pressure goes up and morale goes down.”

Emma Vaux, RCP vice president for education and training, said: “As consultants, we have a responsibility to find out about winter plans where we work. We need to know what they mean for our trainees, both those we’re already working with and those who may move to help shore up services.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “We know that winter pressures place huge demands on NHS organisations and their staff.

“And with winter fast approaching, it is vital that trusts make every effort to listen to the frontlines – and every part of their organisation - when planning operations.

“This report highlights the need to engage clinical staff in responding to those pressures and we would encourage trusts to share their winter plans with their staff as soon as possible.”

This is the first of three short surveys the RCP is conducting this winter. The second will be conducted in January 2019, and the final one the following March.

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