‘Patient safety has never been at greater risk’ – RCN

Protest against the takover of GP surgeries by Operose Health and the parent company Centene

‘THIS is yet more evidence that emergency services are in disarray,’ the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said yesterday ahead of today’s A&E report from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM), called ‘Tip of the Iceberg’.

The report reveals the steady increase in long waiting times in Emergency Departments in England since 2010/11.
RCN head of nursing practice Wendy Preston said: ‘Nurses are standing up for their patients and saying enough is enough – last month the nursing director at one ambulance trust predicted his service will fail mid-August as a critical mass, a third, of their ambulance crews are caught up in handover delays outside hospitals.
‘The health and care workforce crisis is at the heart of this – there simply aren’t enough staff to provide the services needed and patient safety has never been at a greater risk, not to mention poor patient experience.
‘Urgent investment in the nursing workforce is needed, as well as fair pay to help retain those staff. With this year’s NHS pay award imminent, ministers need to grasp the nettle and pay nursing its worth.’
In an interview with the Health Service Journal last month, Mark Docherty, nursing director of West Midlands Ambulance Service, predicted that his service will ‘fail’ around August 17 as handover delays at the region’s hospitals mean ‘a third of our resource (will be) lost to delays, and that will mean we just can’t respond’.
Meanwhile, the RCN has warned that Tory government plans to change the law to allow agency workers to be used to break strikes will be ‘strongly resisted’.
RCN Director of Employment Relations and Legal Services Joanne Galbraith-Marten said yesterday: ‘This change would be undemocratic and unsafe.
‘Any industrial action by our members is very carefully planned to keep patients safe already – bringing in less qualified or agency workers instead could put patients at risk.
‘Health professionals face the most draconian anti-trade union laws.
‘The government curtails their right to be heard because it knows it is failing them.
‘Silencing health workers silences the patient voice too. Any attempts to further limit workers’ rights to challenge their unfair treatment will be strongly resisted.’

  • Last night’s BBC Panorama investigation reported that ‘Operose Health is putting patients at risk by prioritising profit’.

The company, with almost 600,000 NHS patients, is owned by US healthcare giant Centene Corporation.
BBC Panorama sent undercover reporter Jacqui Wakefield to work as a receptionist at one of the UK company’s 51 London surgeries.
A GP working at the practice said they were short of eight doctors and hired physician associates (PAs) instead because they are ‘cheaper’.
PAs have completed two years of post-graduate studies on top of a science degree, as opposed to 10 years education and training for GPs.
Panorama analysed NHS data for 6,500 practices across England and found that for every 2,000 registered patients, there are on average the equivalent of 1.2 full-time GPs. But at Operose practices the average is half that, at a little over 0.6 full time equivalent GPs.
Operose employs six times as many physician associates as the NHS average, according to NHS data.
Since 2016, Operose Health has spent tens of millions of pounds buying GP surgeries. In 2020, it bought 32 practices from London-based AT Medics for a reported £50m. It now runs 70 in total across England, making it the largest supplier of GP services to the NHS.