NHS reacts to State of Care: ‘We’re almost running on empty and well beyond tipping point’

The CQC has today released its annual State of Care report, which has found that most people in England receive a good quality of care – but that, much like the situation last year, quality remains inconsistent and access to care is very much dependent on where you live.

Tom Sandford, director of the Royal College of Nursing in England, argued the report “lays bare a health and social care system that is only being kept afloat by the tireless work of its remaining staff. But we’re almost running on empty.”

He noted that nurse vacancies are soaring, with 41,000 in England alone, and this is having a direct impact on patient care. This is concurred in the report, which claimed that the most common reason for delays in children and young people receiving mental health care is a shortage of staff.

“Improving staff numbers should be the top priority for the government’s new minister for suicide prevention,” Sandford continued. “Two years ago the CQC warned that social care was approaching a tipping point. We are well beyond that now. Vacancy rates in social care are running at 16% in some areas, and people are not getting the care they need.”

Sandford called on the government produce a fully funded workforce plan that responds to population need, and said that improving staff number should be a top priority.

Richard Murray, director of policy at The King’s Fund, echoed parts of the report and sang high praises of NHS and social care staff, noting that the overall quality of care that has been maintained is a testament to their hard work.

“However,” he continued, “today’s report lays bare the challenge of years of squeezed funding, compounded by significant workforce shortages and rising demand for services. This is taking a toll on access to health and social care and some people cannot get the services they need.”

Murray went on to call for the long-term plan to include “firm action and dedicated funding to change how health and care services are delivered,” noting that joined up services are key to high-quality care.

Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation, agreed with Murray’s comments regarding the hard work of staff.

She added: “At a national level, quality of care has mostly held up since last year. The CQC’s approach to look at the state of hospitals, community and social care services from the viewpoint of people in local areas shows how poor-quality services are often clustered together, making it harder for patients to access good services in some parts of the country, compared to others. This clustering needs much more attention.”

Dixon also called for a “comprehensive strategy” to deal with staff shortages across health and care, and added that the NHS funding settlement’s effects will be limited if it mostly only goes on hospitals rather than social care and other services.


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