Responding to the findings of a survey published by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine1, which shows that two-thirds of emergency department clinical leads are not confident that their organisation will safely manage winter pressures, Dr Simon Walsh, BMA consultants committee deputy chair, said:
“The Government has been duly forewarned of the severity of pressures facing the country’s emergency departments this winter as, even in July, staff are dealing with packed corridors, long ambulance queues and delayed treatment for their patients. It is now time for it to act to reduce the unacceptable levels of crowding and corridor care that are an everyday reality in emergency departments by providing the health and care system with the staff and resources it needs to function effectively.
“Blocked emergency departments have tragic consequences for our patients; it means they can’t access care when they most need it, worsening clinical outcomes and endangering safe patient care. At the front end of hospitals, ambulances can’t quickly offload patients, and at the back, our social care workforce has become so diminished that it is struggling to accept patients in need of ongoing care. In the middle, the NHS has a chronic shortage of hospital beds that is leading to unacceptable trolley waits and corridor care. All roads lead to dead ends.
“The Royal College of Emergency Medicine is right when it says that the Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan is a sticking plaster that has failed to stick. Setting targets to reduce waits and delays are all well and good, but they are futile without a plan to build to the NHS workforce and resource services properly. The NHS is facing an existential workforce crisis, with over 100,000 vacancies in secondary care. Meanwhile, the Government has rejected calls for it to be legally accountable to carry out independent, long-term workforce projections, meaning we don’t know how many staff are needed to safely deliver services. The Secretary of State continues to talk about an NHS workforce plan, but we need this now, published in full, with actions and the funding necessary to make a difference to staff and patients.
“Crisis in the NHS is no longer transient or seasonal, it's a year round phenomenon. The Government must heed this warning from clinical leaders and urgently provide the health and care system with the staff and resources it needs to maintain patient safety in the tough days and months ahead.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
- Royal College of Emergency Medicine Snapshot survey and results (covering the period 27 June to 3 July 2022). For more information on these results, please contact the RCEM press office.