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Winter pressure fund is 'merely a sticking plaster'

The £300m announced to help the NHS tackle winter pressures is desperately needed but is ‘merely a sticking plaster’, the BMA has warned.

winter pressuresBMA council chair Mark Porter urged the Government to come up with a ‘long-term plan rather than a short-term fix’ to stop the NHS lurching from one crisis to another.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured below) said the NHS was better prepared than ever to cope with the extra demand during the coming months, thanks to winter-planning exercises.

But Dr Porter said years of tighter funding had left services in England understaffed, under-resourced and unable to cope.

He said: ‘[The extra funding] masks the fact that a funding gap of £30bn is opening up in the NHS, and does not go far enough to address the underlying reasons why the system is under such extreme pressure. 

‘Frontline staff are working as hard as possible but the pressure can be too great, leading to staff shortages in emergency medicine, making a bad situation even worse.’

Pinpointing problems

Jeremy HuntMr Hunt said the planning exercise had seen local medical experts identify pressure points and a range of measures to address them, including more action to keep people out of hospital, closer involvement of GPs and social service organisations, and a public-information campaign encouraging people with non-urgent medical problems to use the full range of NHS services.

The Department of Health said the £300m would fund:

  • Up to the equivalent of 1,000 extra doctors and 2,000 extra nurses, including extended hours and new positions
  • Up to 2,000 other NHS staff, including physiotherapists, social workers and occupational therapists, including temporary staff, extended hours and new positions
  • Up to 2,500 extra beds in acute hospitals and the community sector
  • More than £25m to increase access to GPs
  • £50m to support ambulances services.

Dr Porter said many emergency departments had already experienced spring, summer and autumn crises before the looming winter crisis.

He added: ‘Many hospitals are already at, and in places over, capacity. At the same time, general practice is struggling to meet unprecedented demand in the face of tighter funding. 

‘Getting to grips with this will require more than short-term injections of money, taken from other overstretched services. 

‘There needs to be long-term investment in the NHS and urgent action to address the high number of staff vacancies in emergency medicine and general practice.’

Earlier the this year the Government agreed an initial £400m injection of funds to help tackle winter pressures.

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