NHS and social care ‘at breaking point’

NHS and social care services are ‘at breaking point’ say senior health service officials in a letter to UK political leaders David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, published today by The Independent.

The claim follows hot on the heels of Nuffield Trust analysis suggesting a further 17,000 hospital beds will be needed in the next seven years unless ways are found to reduce overnight stays.

In the letter, the 16 signatories state that the NHS ‘has just been through the longest, and most damaging budget squeeze in its history’ and call for the predicted £30 billion shortfall in NHS funding by 2020 to be addressed urgently with a fully costed, long term spending plan.

They list many examples of how the system is ‘buckling’ under rising demand and flat budgets, including shortages of GPs, pressure on maternity services, the failure of accident and emergency departments to meet waiting time targets, slow cancer diagnoses and lack of beds for mental health emergencies.

In social care, they go on, ‘thousands of elderly and vulnerable people are not getting the help they need and deserve just to live their daily lives safely and with dignity. People with long-term progressive conditions such as dementia have been cut adrift, reliant on unpaid and unsupported carers to live from day to day’.

They also highlight a ‘pressing need’ to invest in children and young people’s physical and mental health.

‘While we welcome the fact that the NHS has risen to the top of the political agenda, and some new spending commitments have been made, we need a comprehensive, fully costed, long-term spending plan … It must also take into account the need for vital social care. This will also require a guarantee that the NHS will be protected from another top-down reorganisation which is not in the best interests of patients, and distracts from the severe, long-term funding pressures facing the health service,’ they concluded.

Signatories to the letter were: Dr Mark Porter, chair of council, British Medical Association; Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary, Royal College of Nursing; Prof Jane Dacre, president, Royal College of Physicians; Dr Maureen Baker, chair, Royal College of General Practitioners; Cathy Warwick, chief executive, Royal College of Midwives; Dr Hilary Cass, president, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health; Dr David Richmond, president, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; Prof Caroline MacEwen, president, Royal College of Ophthalmologists; Jeremy Hughes, chief executive, Alzheimer’s Society; Henny Braund, chief executive, Anthony Nolan; Michelle Mitchell, chief executive, the MS Society; Lesley Anne Alexander, chief executive, Royal National Institute of Blind People; Siobhan Dunn, chief executive of Teenage Cancer Trust; Dr Peter Swinyard, GP Swindon and national chairman, The Family Doctor Association; Moira Auchterlonie, chief executive, Family Doctor Association and Dr John Middleton, acting president, Faculty of Public Health.

Read the full letter here.


Projected pressure on hospital beds to test NHS

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