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‘Stop playing games with the NHS’ consultants warn MPs

Conference told of ‘burn-out’ and recruitment ‘crisis'.

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 04 March 2015

The UK’s consultants are calling on politicians to ‘stop playing games with the NHS’.

Hundreds of senior hospital doctors are gathering in London today for the British Medical Association’s annual consultant conference. Key issues include: funding pressures, privatisation, the Health and Social Care Act, workload and burn-out issues and the recruitment and retention crisis in emergency medicine. 

Speaking ahead of the conference Dr Paul Flynn, BMA consultant committee chair, said: “Consultants have played a vital role in not just protecting, but improving the quality of patient care in the face of NHS budgets cuts. Many consultants, especially those working in emergency medicine, are working flat-out to keep up with rising patient demand, often in high pressured and challenging environments.

“While workloads are rising, doctors’ pay has been steadily chipped away at in recent years, leaving consultant pay, in real terms, back at 2003 levels. This is because billions of the Government’s so called ‘efficiency savings’ in the NHS have in fact come from cuts to front-line staff pay, leaving doctors feeling devalued and demoralised.

“With only weeks until the General Election, consultants are calling on politicians to stop playing games with the NHS and put patient care first, by listening to the concerns of senior doctors about NHS funding, creeping commercialisation of services and rising workload pressures on staff which lead to burnout.”

Dr Flynn added: “Staff are the beating heart of our NHS, which is the best health care system in the world. It is vital that they feel valued and motivated rather than exploited and overlooked.”

Conference will be told that the NHS has undergone its ‘toughest settlement in 50 years and the second toughest in its history.’

In a recent BMA survey half of consultants described their workload as unmanageable and identified excessive workloads as the greatest barrier to delivering the care they wanted to for patients.

In addition, almost half of consultants reported working outside of their regular hours, and satisfaction with work life balance had fallen more amongst consultants than any other group of doctors.

Conference will be told that excessive workloads and stressful working environments are leading to burnout and a recruitment and retention crisis in some specialities, such as emergency medicine, as junior doctors chose to train in other areas of medicine or existing doctors leave the NHS and work abroad.

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