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25.06.18

BMA leader: ‘We may be in summer, but it’s still winter in the NHS’

The NHS has fewer doctors, nurses and beds, and is being “run ragged” all-year long, the leader of a major medical association has said today.

Speaking at the BMA’s keynote conference in Brighton today, chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul argued that the NHS has been “systematically and scandalously starved of resources” and is lacking the required equipment and staff to cope with growing demand.

Despite the PM pledging an extra £20bn year-on-year by 2020, Dr Nagpaul said there is a vast gap of around 35,000 hospital beds or 10,000 doctors that is separating the UK from its European neighbours.

He added: “We’re being run ragged. Do you remember when winter pressures only happened in the winter? We now have an all-year crisis. Today in Brighton we may be in the midst of summer, but in the NHS it’s still winter.”

The BMA chair went on to point out that the health service’s gaps and stopgaps result in two out of three junior doctors reporting holes in their rota, and one-third of GP practices having long-term vacancies.

In May two in five GPs in England said they will leave the profession within five years, a government-backed survey showed. Just one day earlier NHE reported that soaring GP practice closures could have “serious effects” for patients and staff.

During the conference, Nagpaul asked: “Does being prepared mean resorting to precipitously cancelling tens of thousands of operations before Christmas due to lack of capacity, adding further delay, anxiety and suffering to patients who have already waited months for an operation?”

“Is being prepared having 17,000 acutely sick patients queueing in ambulances outside emergency departments in the first week of January since there was not the space to admit them? It’s the new norm. It’s a new low.”

The findings of a BMA study found that almost three-quarters of 8,000 doctors interviewed believed financial targets override patient care. In addition, a whopping 95% of doctors said they were in fear of making a medical error. Dr Nagpaul said that this and underfunding were affecting patient safety and “undermining NHS values.”

“It’s shameful that within the statutory duty to make ends meet, some hospitals resort to charging sick patients and relatives more in car parking fees than they’d pay in the high street outside,” he continued. “Expecting elderly patients, those on low income or chronic debility to start paying for a range of treatments including fungal infection, scabies and eczema.

“And if they can’t afford it, should they just suffer and do without?”

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