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Conditions in the NHS have worsened, new report shows

NHS funding 'must match patient need,' say doctors

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 12 March 2018

The NHS is being pushed to the limit with doctors reporting a demoralised workforce and a deterioration in patient safety.

This is the finding from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in its new report: NHS reality check: Update 2018, published today.

Over 1,500 doctors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland provided detailed information to the report, which indicated that their situation had become worse in nearly all areas of care.

Overall, the picture painted by respondees shows doctors struggling against rising demand, the impact of an ageing population with increasingly complex medical needs, and the difficulties of maintaining morale when the NHS is 'underfunded, underdoctored and overstretched'.

The data showed:

  • 64% of doctors believe that patient safety has deteriorated over the past year – 10% higher than last year.
  • 93% experienced staff shortages across the team – 9% higher than last year.
  • 84% believe that the workforce is demoralised – 2% higher than last year.
  • 85% cite rising demand for their service over the past year – 7% higher than last year.
  • 47% cite lower-quality care over the past year – 10% higher than last year.
  • 80% are worried about the ability of their service to deliver safe patient care in the next 12 months – 6% higher than last year.
RCP president Professor Jane Dacre said: “It is extremely worrying and depressing that our doctors have experienced an even worse winter than last year, particularly when so much effort was put into forward planning and cancelling elective procedures to enable us to cope better. We simply cannot go through this again – it is not as if the situation was either new or unexpected.

“As the NHS reaches 70, our patients deserve better – somehow, we need to move faster towards a better resourced, adequately staffed NHS during 2018, or it will happen again.”

Using the statistical and oral data, the RCP made three key recommendations for fixing the ongoing crisis:
  • Making the UK more accessible and attractive to doctors from other countries: “The government must relax visa restrictions for the healthcare workforce and build on successful schemes such as the Medical Training Initiative.”
  • NHS organisations, royal colleges, professions, trade unions, regulators, higher education institutions and think tanks need to work together to make sure the NHS has the workforce and resources it needs.
  • Funding for health and social care must match growing patient need, and there must be more investment in public health initiatives that reduce that need.
Responding to todays report, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs said: "We have huge empathy with our hospital colleagues, and we know that GPs around the UK would echo their sentiments around increasing workload, and concerns for patient safety. Our NHS is operating under immense pressures and we're sure that everyone working in the health system can relate to this report in one way or another.

"The combination of a depleted workforce, intense workload, and chronic underfunding has left our health service on the brink, putting both staff and patient wellbeing at risk.

"In general practice alone, our workload has risen by at least 16% over the last seven years, but investment in our service has not risen at the same pace – something surgeries up and down the country are now feeling on a day-to-day basis.

"We agree with the recommendations made in the report that we need to make the UK more accessible and attractive to doctors from other countries, and that public initiatives to reduce patient need must be properly funded if the NHS is to see any benefit.”

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