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BMA warns of 'all year' NHS crisis

Eight out of 10 doctors say underfunding is affecting quality and safety

Mark Gould

Monday, 25 June 2018

Opening the BMA's Annual Representative Meeting BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, warned of an "all year" crisis in the NHS where pressures on the service are as bad in the summer as those in the winter.

And he says that there was little sign that the government’s recent announcement of an extra 3.4 per cent for the NHS will solve the immediate problems facing patient care.

To coincide with the meeting the BMA has also releasing initial findings of a survey* of just under 8000 doctors which tests the medical profession’s views of the current state of the NHS.

Key findings include:

  • Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of doctors say that financial targets override patient care.
  • Eight in 10 (78 per cent) say that underfunding is significantly affecting quality and safety in the NHS.
  • Almost all doctors (95 per cent) said they were fearful of making a medical error and more than half (55 per cent) fear they will be blamed for errors due to pressures or system failings in their workplace.
  • Most doctors say waiting times for patients (76 per cent) and NHS services overall (76 per cent) have worsened in the last 12 months.
  • Only one in 20 (5 per cent) say staffing levels are adequate to support quality patient care.
  • Three-quarters (74 per cent) say staffing levels have worsened of the past 12 months.
  • When asked what would improve day-to-day life safety was key; staff levels (57 per cent) and more effective IT systems (53 per cent).
In his speech Dr Nagpaul, said: “We know the NHS has been systematically and scandalously starved of resources for years. It lacks doctors, it lacks nurses, it lacks beds. It’s not just the channel that separates us from our European neighbours, but a vast funding gap equating to 35,000 hospital beds or 10,000 doctors.

“We’re being run ragged. A health service of gaps and stopgaps where two out of three juniors report holes in their rota and one-third of GP practices have long-term vacancies. It’s the new norm. It’s a new low."

“Does being prepared mean resorting to precipitously cancelling tens of thousands of operations before Christmas due to lack of capacity, adding further delay, anxiety and suffering to patients who’ve already waited months for an operation? Is being prepared having 17,000 acutely sick patients queueing in ambulances outside emergency departments in the first week of January since there was not the space to admit them. Do you remember when winter pressures only happened in the winter? We now have an all-year crisis. Today in Brighton we may be in the midst of summer, but in the NHS it’s still winter."

Dr Nagpaul said the prime minister’s "belated and desperately needed" announcement of increased NHS funding after years of denial was a positive step but that the investment is still well short of what’s needed and we need it now.

"We will continue to campaign to be at parity with our European neighbours. Meanwhile it’s crucial that this money is delivered to treat patients and attract and retain staff."

And he warned the government must stop “wasting billions from current taxpayers pockets” on the damaging NHS market in England – “money which should be used to treat patients but being squandered in futile transactions, bureaucratic processes, fragmentation and PFI deals”.

“Has government forgotten private provider Circle abandoning Hinchingbrooke Hospital just three years after taking it over simply because it wasn’t profitable enough and leaving the NHS to pick up the pieces of disruption to services, staff and patients?

“What more evidence does the government need about the costs and damage of private outsourcing after the collapse of Carillion, and the utter shameful incompetence of Capita?"

*'Caring, supportive, collaborative: a future vision for the NHS'. Survey carried out by The British Medical Association between 3 May to 4 June 2018.

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