Medics warn of workforce crisis as 94% report staffing issues

Nearly 94% of acute medics today reported regular problems in their units with having a full quota of staff, deepening concerns of a workforce crisis in the NHS.

Members of the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM), who represent more than 1,000 clinicians who deal with patients in hospital with medical emergencies, were asked about the state of staffing and patient care in their hospitals.

Almost all of the doctors surveyed reported regular problems with staffing, whilst 85% said that permanent medical staff had to work extra shifts to maintain sufficient staffing levels.

Of the respondents who said there were regular problems with a full staffing quota, 86% said that problems mainly occurred during weekdays out of hours, and 84% said they occurred on weekends.

Issues with bed occupancy were also raised in the survey, as more than 57% of doctors said that their unit had recently faced a situation where they had more patients than beds. Over 90% of consultants also stated that they regularly spent the start of their day trying to find a bed for a patient.

“During the past winter acute medicine was again at the forefront of supporting the increasingly-pressured NHS to deliver the very best care for patients,” said Dr Mark Holland, president of SAM.

“However, having sought the views of our members, we have identified many barriers impeding them from delivering the care they aspire to give their patients. Clearly we find this very worrying."

Dr Holland added that the range and significance of the problems SAM had seen suggested that there was a system-wide problem as opposed to “isolated pockets of difficulty”.

“The increasing volume of work coupled to a perceived inadequate hospital bed-base were high on the list of concerns of acute clinicians, as was the inability to recruit and retain both medical and nursing staff,” he argued.

Most importantly, Dr Holland said it was very worrying that doctors were being expected to deliver high-quality care in “inappropriate environments,” as patients were left in corridors when there was not enough room in wards.

“There is an NHS-wide workforce crisis and everyone acknowledges the desperate need for change,” he said. “We need to make substantive posts as attractive as locum positions, a move which would enhance our service and save money.”

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