NHS Providers has today released a report entitled ‘Steeling Ourselves for Winter 2018/19’ detailing the pressures facing NHS Trusts as they head into winter. The report makes it unequivocally clear that the NHS believes Trusts are in a worse position to cope with a forthcoming winter crisis than they have been in previous years – and that this is a result of austerity policies.
The report states this is reflected in worsening A&E performance; with Trusts failing to reach the 95% target of attending to those admitted to A&E within 4 hours of admission. With the latest data for September seeing Trusts only managing to reach 88.9% - although this figure fell even further for specific types of admissions, and represents an overall decline in performance compared with last year.
The report also notes that this decline in performance has occurred at a time when the total number of emergency admissions has risen by 5% and in some cases 7%.
Alongside worsening A&E performance the report also notes that the waiting list for elective surgery is at its longest since records began. The numbers of people waiting over 52 weeks for treatment has doubled to 3,407 in the past 12 months, whilst Trusts are also at an all time low in meeting cancer treatment targets.
The NHS has eight key standards for the treatment of cancer, but is currently only hitting five of these, and notes that at a national level the 62-day wait cancer target has been missed since 2013/14.
The report also criticises past media and government narratives which have restricted winter crises to being events which only occur within A&Es. It makes clear that winter crises represent system wide pressures.
In particular, it states that three of the key areas determining A&E pressures and performance are community care, social care and GP primary care.
The report contends that as all of these are being subjected to increased pressure this is having a direct effect on NHS Trusts. In particular it claims that it’s previous reports into community care has found that many NHS Trusts are being ‘left marginalised, underfunded and short staffed’.
It also claims that the government’s much vaunted emergency £240m boost in social care funding isn’t enough to offset the fact that the Directors of Adult Social Services demand for social care is expected to rise to a cost of £448m this year alone.
It also points out that Local Councils are planning to reduce spending on social care by £700m, and that Brexit is a contributing factor to 110,000 vacancies being left unfilled in the sector, which is itself heavily dependent on EU staff.
Finally, the report states that the government is substantially failing in its quest to recruit 5000 extra GPs by 2021. A spokesperson for the National Health Action Party reacted to the report, stating:
“This report makes damning reading for the government. NHS staff are some of the hardest working people in this country. Day in and day out they do their very best to care for those in need. But they are being failed – and have routinely been failed – by this Conservative government.
The report has made it extremely clear that NHS Trusts are in a worse position to deal with winter crises because the entire system is under sustained pressure as a result of the Government’s political decision to continue foisting austerity upon our public services”
The National Health Action (NHA) Party was founded in 2012 to oppose the growing marketisation of the NHS.
The NHA Party stood against Jeremy Hunt in his SW Surrey constituency in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections, taking 12,093 votes in the latter: a 7.8% swing to NHA.