Government must tackle continued pressure to prevent NHS winter crisis, says BMA

by BMA media team

BMA press release.

Location: England
Published: Friday 28 July 2023
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Responding to the NHS England announcement of winter plans to help speed up discharge for patients and improve care, Dr Emma Runswick, deputy chair of BMA council, said:

“Last winter, we witnessed a near collapse of emergency services in England and Government must do everything to ensure that this does not happen again. Unfortunately, without Government consideration of the fundamental staffing issues which impact waiting times and patient safety, then this NHSE plan, like so many before it, will be in vain. The perilous state of health and social care services need decisive action on funding and staffing to protect the health and safety of the population, not merely incentives.

“It is difficult to see how plans to speed up discharge will work, when additional bureaucracy in ‘care traffic control centres’ looks to add more strain on our already overstretched workforce. Extra hospital beds will not safely increase capacity unless the NHS is able to bring in additional staff to treat those who occupy them.

“New NHS data has shown that the number of patients per GP is at a record high, but there is no mention in this plan on dealing with the worsening demands across general practice. If NHSE and ICBs cannot improve capacity in General Practice before winter arrives, then things will continue to get worse. In the short term, funding and reduction in bureaucracy would help GPs to support patients. Longer term, GP retention is crucial. Focus here is especially needed as primary care continues to bear the brunt of hospital backlogs and those who can’t access the care they need. Vacancies across healthcare just keep growing and as the Government remains unable address record long waiting lists, the recruitment and the retaining of staff must be the top priority to help tackle these pressures.

“NHS staff deserve more than incentives.Pushing the narrative to exceed targets is counterproductive, and only will only result in increased pressure on overstretched staff. Real investment to reverse the deterioration of working conditions and facilities across the health service is desperately needed. If funding is available, it should be immediately directed to areas of most need.

“Ours is a workforce that continues to go above and beyond for patients, and the Government must support all those working in the NHS. We don’t want to see the quality of care continue to fall in a bid to fill gaps. For far too long, doctors have been undervalued, underpaid and overworked, so without urgent improvements to conditions and staffing, this plan will only add to the worsening of the issues we face during times of unprecedented pressure, and increase the willingness of downtrodden staff to take industrial action in the coming months.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union 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.  

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