NHS winter crises: The Domino Effect

Hannah Dewhirst

Seven dominoes threaten to topple our entire public health service this winter.

Today we ran an online briefing for parliamentarians, the press and the public on NHS winter crises: The Domino Effect. A group of MPs, staffers and journalists came along to hear from our Chief Executive Dr Julia Patterson and EveryDoctor Member and NHS GP, Dr Emily Ball. You can catch up on the recording of the briefing on our YouTube channel here

The NHS is a complicated system. Each part of the system depends on the integrity and effectiveness of the next and every part of it is now close to the point of collapse. The cumulative effects of seven interconnected crises; Cuts, COVID-19, Primary Care, Ambulances, A&E, Hospitals and Social Care, threaten to topple it this winter - like dominoes. 

Here’s just a brief snapshot to show how under pressure each of the seven areas are:

  1. A decade of underfunding means the total number of NHS hospital beds in England has more than halved over the past 30 years.
  2. Over 605,000 patients have been admitted to hospital with Coronavirus across the UK since the pandemic began. With Delta, Omicron and new variants likely to emerge, this number will keep on rising.
  3. There are 1,704 fewer fully-qualified FTE GPs than there were in 2015 - but each practice has an average of 1,849 more patients.
  4. Response times for ambulance services in England in October were the longest since 2017.  
  5. A&E attendances in England have increased by 37.4% since November 2020.
  6. There is now a backlog of 6 million people waiting for hospital treatment in England alone.
  7. Care homes in England are facing the biggest staff shortage on record, with 105,000 positions unfilled.

Dr Emily Ball also spoke about the harsh realities on the ground for her surgery in a Liverpool suburb; "We are, and have been for some time, in a disastrous state. I'm seeing colleagues leaving from burnout, sickness and stress, meaning the people left are struggling even more." 

We ran this briefing because the NHS, under strain for many successive winters, is now crumbling. The realities on the frontline are terrifying, and we are deeply concerned for both NHS patients and the staff looking after them. 

MPs from every party and the government need to take responsibility. They should meet with healthcare leaders as a matter of urgency and actually listen to their ideas about how they can maximise efficiency in the NHS in the coming months. Government could also do more to support existing staff by removing any budgetary limitations and locum caps. As well as follow-through on the multiple broken promises from successive Health Secretaries, to train and recruit more doctors, in order to safeguard our patients. 

Running parliamentary briefings, producing documents, and sharing stories from the NHS frontline like we did today, is exactly what EveryDoctor was founded to do. 

We’re happy to share the accompanying briefing document with any parliamentarians or press offices, as well as EveryDoctor Members and Supporters. Please get in touch with us via campaigns@everydoctor.org.uk to receive a copy, or head here beforehand to become an EveryDoctor Member or Supporter today 💙

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