NHS PERFORMANCE stats reveal the ‘devastating extent of patient suffering’ amid a ‘daunting’ backlog, says the BMA.
In his response to the latest NHS performance figures, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, council chair of doctors’ union the BMA, stressed: ‘Today’s figures reveal the devastating extent of patient suffering across the country as people wait longer than ever before for treatment during Covid-19.’
He continued: ‘The average wait for treatment by a hospital consultant went up to 19.6 weeks in July, meaning patients are waiting almost five months to get the care they need.
‘What’s more, the number of patients waiting more than a year for treatment at the end of July soared again, this time to 83,000 – the highest number since October 2008.
‘That’s 81 times more people than last July. Demand in A&E went up again in August as well, with 12,000 more patients waiting more than four hours on a trolley bed compared to the month before.
‘For cancer patients, the proportion of people receiving their first cancer treatment two months after a national screening service remained very low, at just 25%, causing huge amounts of distress to them and their loved ones.
‘It is therefore, vital that the government invests now with clear plans of expanding NHS infrastructure and capacity to cope with the demand of both covid and non-covid patients.
‘Equally important is that the government must urgently do everything it can to prevent the escalating spread of coronavirus.
‘Given limited capacity in the NHS, surges in cases coupled with winter pressures will make it difficult to resume normal services. At worst a second spike will overwhelm our already battered NHS and add insult to injury by generating a further, potentially uncontrollable, backlog.’
Meanwhile the BMA has also called for urgent social care reform after Covid-19 was able to wreak ‘utter devastation’ on the system.
It is warning: ‘The British Medical Association is calling on the Government to urgently reform social care in England and make it free at the point of need.
‘In a paper released today, the Association says that growing pressures on social care services are resulting in more and more peoples’ needs not being met – causing distress for some of society’s most vulnerable and putting unnecessary strain on the wider NHS.’
The TUC (Trades Union Congress) has also put forward proposals which claim to have set out ‘how to fix social care for good’.
‘As the UK faces mass unemployment after the pandemic, social care could be a major source of new decent jobs,’ it says.
Annual adult social care spending in England is still £600m lower than in 2010, according to new analysis published last week by the TUC.
The analysis finds that in 112 of the 150 responsible local authorities, social care spending per head of the population is still below 2010.
Spending per head is 8% below the level in 2010 for England overall. And regional reductions range from 18% in London, to 5% in the South East, East Midlands and East of England.
A TUC report, Fixing Social Care: Better Quality Services and Jobs, sets out why the UK does not have a high-quality social care system, and how to improve it for those who use it, and those who work in it.
‘Social care in England has insufficient funding to meet demand, forcing councils to tighten eligibility and people to rely on informal care from family and friends. And it will be unable to meet future demand from a 49% increase in those aged 65+ by 2040,’ the report states.
‘Most care homes are run privately for profit. This directs public funds away from service users and squeezes pay and conditions for staff. Almost a quarter of social care staff have a zero-hours contract and 7 in 10 are paid less than £10 per hour. The sector has around 120,000 unfilled vacancies and an annual staff turnover rate of 31%.’
‘The report calls for:
- A new funding settlement: This year’s spending review should fully offset the cuts of the previous decade and establish future rises at a level that will allow local authorities to meet rising demand and improve pay and conditions for staff.
- Immediate funding to fill all social care vacancies: In a time of rising unemployment, social care could provide a steady source of new decent jobs. The government could act now to unlock 120,000 existing vacancies, to help those losing their jobs.
- Fair pay and conditions for care workers: To provide sustainable livelihoods and an attractive career, all social care workers must get a sector minimum wage of at least £10 per hour. There must be an end to the zero-hours contracts, and poor or non-existent sick pay that put social care workers at risk during the pandemic. And all social care workers must have guaranteed opportunities for training and progression.
- A national Social Care Forum: A new body is needed to bring together government, unions, employers, commissioners and providers to coordinate the delivery and development of services, including the negotiation of a workforce strategy.
- A reduced private sector role: The government should strengthen rules to prevent financial extraction in the care sector and should phase out the for-profit model of delivery, so that all public funding is used to deliver high-quality services with fair pay and conditions for staff.
- A universal service free at the point of use: The changes above can be made quickly. Longer-term, the government should make social care a universal service, paid for through general taxation to ensure high-quality social care can be quickly accessed by everyone who needs it, in every part of England, without any variation in cost and qualifying rules.
Responding to a new analysis of the Covid-19 temporary nursing register by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), Susan Masters, RCN Director of Nursing, Policy and Public Affairs, said: ‘The students and recently retired nurses who re-joined the register should be immensely proud of the role they played in this pandemic.
‘However, the uncomfortable truth is that these people were needed because our health and care system entered this pandemic with tens of thousands of nursing vacancies across the UK.
‘Even if everyone who temporarily registered, including nurses who’ve recently retired, became permanent registrants, this number would be dwarfed by the many considering departing our profession.
‘The best way to convince those who stepped up in the pandemic, and those who are now considering leaving, that their future is in nursing is for the government to show it recognises their worth with an early, meaningful pay rise.’