Government reaping result of ‘not listening to NHS staff’ as public survey shows NHS needs a new direction, says BMA

by BMA media office

BMA press release

Location: UK
Published: Wednesday 27 March 2024
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In response to the latest British Social Attitudes survey published today by The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust Professor Phil Banfield, BMA chair of council, said: “After 14 years in office this government is reaping the result of not listening to NHS staff, and regrettably not a single doctor within the NHS would find these findings surprising. Despite our unwavering dedication to patient care, we find ourselves operating within a system that has been severely undermined, hindering our ability to deliver the high-quality care that both patients deserve, and we are eager to provide. This survey demonstrates that the public have not been taken in by the government’s attempts to blame everyone but themselves for the managed decline of the NHS.

“The BMA has been shouting about chronic understaffing for years now – the NHS is providing services with a staggering almost 9000 doctors vacancies. In comparison, countries like Spain and Germany boast a third more doctors per person than England. This glaring disparity is ridiculous and as this survey found the public agree, with 51% of respondents saying, ‘increasing NHS staff is a top priority’. The BMA asked for a long-term workforce plan for decades to rectify this, and one only arrived last year - it’s just too little too late.

“We know that across the country, patients are waiting far too long to see their GPs, and GPs are deeply frustrated about access issues. We’ve told the Government repeatedly what needs to be done to rectify this but instead of listening to us, it has starved general practice of resources. The recent practice contract baseline funding uplift of only £179m in the face of crippling rising costs and expenses is frankly an insult to my GP colleagues. Across the country, GP practices are closing – permanently. This survey shows the kind of government attitude that got us to this sorry state.

“Money is a crucial issue. For instance, practices are unable to afford to pay willing and skilled GPs to work, junior doctors are increasingly seeking opportunities abroad due to significant pay declines over the past 15 years and our specialty and specialist doctors are left wondering whether the NHS values them at all. Of the respondents, 48% chose ‘increase taxes and spend more on the NHS’, it would be unwise to overlook this clear public appetite to adequately fund a better NHS. It is worth observing that there are many ways of increasing tax revenues without increasing the burden on individuals, but the principle of the more you earn, the more you should willingly contribute makes moral and ethical sense to us. The government must take heed to these findings and do all it can to rebuild an NHS where staff are properly valued, patients receive satisfactory care and the cost of reversing the falling trend in the health of this nation is seen as an investment not an obstacle. This government should listen to patients, if they are not going to heed the warnings of the medical profession – the NHS desperately needs a new direction.”

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.