The financial challenges now facing the NHS and social care are unprecedented. Clinicians are increasingly caught between conflicting pressure of delivering the high-quality care that they are trained to provide, and the reality of an overstretched financial settlement available for health services.
The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) represents 34,000 hospital doctors and physician associates, the majority of whom are based in the UK. They among the many healthcare professionals work tirelessly to ensure that the NHS’s finite resources are used effectively and efficiently to deliver the best possible care. However, the government must be realistic about the level of sustained investment that is required to maintain the quality of our health and care services in the face of increasing patient need.
In this budget, we urge you to provide the resources to ensure that health and care professionals can provide the right care, in safely and properly staffed services with capacity to meet patient needs. Without sufficient investment in the NHS, social care and public health interventions, patients are at risk of avoidable harm, and the future sustainability of the NHS is under threat.
Last year the RCP outlined that the NHS was underfunded, underdoctored and overstretched. This is still true. RCP data from April 2017 demonstrate the pressures the system is under, with hospitals operating at full – and over – capacity through last winter. 78% of our members believe that patient need (and therefore demand for their service) increased over the past year, and yet 84% had experienced staffing shortages across their team, which made it harder to deal with rising need. These staff shortages are likely to be exacerbated by seasonal influenza.
This is having a direct effect on the delivery of patient care. A recent RCP survey outlined that 60% of junior doctors believe that poor availability of out-of-hospital care – such as primary care and social care – is having a serious or extremely serious impact on patient safety. Additionally, 58% of junior doctors have told us that a lack of hospital beds is putting patients at risk.
NHS staff are currently doing a fantastic job in a challenging environment to minimise the direct impact that system pressures are having on patients. However, the system is reaching breaking point, staff are demoralised and the NHS workforce’s priceless goodwill is being relentlessly and unsustainably drawn upon.
As we approach the 70th anniversary of the NHS – one of our nation’s proudest achievements – we urge you to give health and social care the resources that they desperately need.