The prime minister can no longer ‘bury her head in the sand’, doctors leaders have said, after the British Red Cross described the situation in hospitals and ambulance services as a ‘humanitarian crisis’.
With reports of unprecedented pressures, and patients waiting hours on trolleys for treatment in many hospitals, BMA council chair Mark Porter said the Government could no longer pretend the NHS was fully funded.
He said: ‘Given that the NHS was facing the worst winter on record, the unacceptable absence of additional funding for health and social care in the Autumn statement has only further exacerbated the crisis.
‘We have seen no signs from the prime minister since taking office that she understands the gravity of the situation the NHS is facing.
‘As lack of beds and inadequate social care funding has prompted the Red Cross to declare a humanitarian crisis in our hospitals, Theresa May cannot continue to bury her head in the sand as the situation in our NHS and social care sector deteriorates.’
British Red Cross chief executive Mike Adamson said his organisation had been called in to help, with volunteers and loaned vehicles easing the intense pressure.
He told The Guardian: ‘[We are] responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country. We have been called in to support the NHS and help get people home from hospital and free up much needed beds.
‘This means deploying our team of emergency volunteers and even calling on our partner Land Rover to lend vehicles to transport patients and get the system moving.’
Threat to safety
Nuffield Trust analysis has found that, from 1 December to 27 December, a third of English NHS trusts issued serious alerts about the pressures they were encountering.
Fifty out of 152 issued OPEL (operational pressures escalation levels) declarations at level 3 – ‘major pressures compromising patient flow’ and level 4 – ‘unable to deliver comprehensive care… [with] increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised’.
Doctors leaders have warned the situation could worsen still without an urgent increase in resources. Winter pressures are often greater in January and February than in December.
The NHS meanwhile faces £26bn of cuts to health and social care over the next five years, according to BMA analysis of the 44 sustainability and transformation plans that have been drawn up across England.
BMA junior doctors committee co-chair Jeeves Wijesuriya said the Government had made a political choice to resource the NHS to the level it has.
He said: ‘The Government has ignored the concerns and the problems our patients and our frontline staff have been facing.
‘It is a political choice that this Government has made to underfund and under-resource our health service. This chronic underfunding is at the heart of what we have to resolve if we are going to find a solution.
‘We have to address the lack of resources and the recruitment crisis we have got. We are at breaking point. We need the prime minister to step in and address this or there will be more casualties of this underfunding.’
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