Responding to news that all hospitals in England must find extra space for patients to help ease ambulance delays, Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the consultants committee at the BMA, said:
“The Government should be ashamed that it has come to this. NHS England and Improvement have asked hospitals to create extra capacity to ensure that ambulances can hand over patients within 30 minutes of arriving at hospital. However, if hospitals had the space or the staff to allow them to care for these patients, they wouldn’t be waiting in ambulances at the hospital door in the first place.
"The sad fact is that after decades of underinvestment, our hospitals are under-resourced, under-bedded and understaffed. Our incredible NHS staff are now being forced to make impossible choices - to spread themselves even thinner, to work even harder, and provide patient care in inappropriate areas of the hospital. The alternative is to leave patients for prolonged periods in the back of ambulances, knowing that this may not only adversely impact their care, but also have the knock-on impact of preventing these ambulances from responding to other 999 calls in the community.
"This situation will have significant impact across the healthcare system, with GPs having to balance the risk of referring patients to hospital in these circumstances, or to continue trying to manage them in the community. Doctors should not be forced to make such compromises when caring for patients.
"Despite all of these challenges, doctors and other healthcare workers will do everything possible to keep patients safe. However, we simply cannot continue to go on like this. The Government must listen: we need more staff, more resources, and more funding now. Otherwise, staff will continue to be placed in incredibly difficult situations and patient safety will be put at risk. Our patients, our staff and our NHS deserves better."
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.