NHS Winter Crisis


THE NHS needs a long-term plan rather than a short-term fix, doctors’ leaders said yesterday.

Fearing a winter crisis in the NHS in England, the government has released £300m bringing the total winter pot to £700m.

The money, which comes out of the NHS budget, is to help increase staff numbers and services, particularly at weekends.

Money is also being set aside to extend pharmacy and GP opening as well as to boost physio, social worker and occupational therapy services.

Dr Mark Porter, Chair of the BMA Council, responded: ‘While extra funding is desperately needed, this announcement is merely a sticking plaster.

‘It 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.

‘Years of tighter funding have left services understaffed, under-resourced and unable to cope. Front-line 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.

‘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 both emergency medicine and general practice.’

College of Emergency Medicine President, Dr Cliff Mann, slammed ‘chronic under-staffing’ of A&E units ‘brought about by tariffs that are unfit for purpose and contracts that discourage employment in emergency medicine.

‘Last year over £150m was spent on A&E locums and in the last few years we have further squandered £130m training doctors who have emigrated to work in emergency medicine in Australia.’

• Calling on NHS England to review Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG’s) proposal to ration surgical services, Royal College of Surgeons president Clare Marx stressed: ‘Access to routine surgery should always be based on an individual’s clinical need.’