Little Sign Politicians Can Remedy NHS Ills; with the General Election Just Weeks Away, Chairman of the British Medical Association's Welsh Council, Dr Phil Banfield, Looks at the Current State of the NHS and Highlights Where Improvement Is Needed

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 13, 2015 | Go to article overview

Little Sign Politicians Can Remedy NHS Ills; with the General Election Just Weeks Away, Chairman of the British Medical Association's Welsh Council, Dr Phil Banfield, Looks at the Current State of the NHS and Highlights Where Improvement Is Needed


Byline: Dr Phil Banfield

ACCIDENT and emergency departments across the country experienced one of the toughest winters on record.

Waiting time breaches reached record highs, emergency admissions to hospitals soared, and thousands of patients faced long waits on trolleys for admission.

For many, the pressure on emergency departments has been simply too great, with 17 hospitals across the UK declaring 'major incidents' over the winter months.

Services have been stretched to breaking point, with doctors and nurses unable to move patients to appropriate wards. Some hospitals found themselves on 'black alert', where they reach capacity and have to turn patients away.

A new survey undertaken by the British Medical Association has found that 29% of respondents reported black alerts at work - a huge increase from the 7% at the same time last year.

The same survey found that 48% of doctors experienced breaches in A&E targets, and a staggering 65%, across both primary and secondary care, reported an increase in waiting times.

Patients should always be treated on the basis of need rather than arbitrary waiting time targets; yet rising demand on services, coupled with ongoing spikes in demand, will have left patients facing increasingly unacceptable delays throughout the year.

Breaches in A&E targets are highly visible and widely reported - but they also reflect what's happening across the NHS.

The A&E crisis is a high-profile part of the bigger picture about just how much pressure our health service is under; one of rising demand, chronic under-funding of services and a growing recruitment and retention crisis. Uncertainty and under-funding results in it being impossible to plan for the longer term, and near impossible to recruit staff willing to work under such conditions.

And, while workload for hospital consultants continues to spiral, most recent surveys finding that 41% of consultants reported unmanageable or unsustainable workloads - GPs, too, are facing burnout, as they attempt to deal with in excess of 40 to 50 patients a day.

Finding solutions isn't easy. However, the political response has for too long been a series of headline-grabbing sticking plaster policies to bail out emergency departments, rather than developing long-term, sustainable solutions.

The result is that the NHS lurches from one winter crisis to another.

Worse still, a recent report found that less than 1% of this winter's emergency funding actually made its way to frontline A&E services. …

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Little Sign Politicians Can Remedy NHS Ills; with the General Election Just Weeks Away, Chairman of the British Medical Association's Welsh Council, Dr Phil Banfield, Looks at the Current State of the NHS and Highlights Where Improvement Is Needed
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