Following the release of NHS performance data for January, Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said:
“The last six weeks has seen the acute services of the NHS under a sustained period of stress due to ‘normal’ winter pressures along with a surge in influenza.
“Neither of these were unpredictable but both have combined to cause the issues that have been widely reported across the country.
“Last year we coined the phrase ‘eternal winter’, but the last month and a half has shown an even steeper decline in performance as demonstrated by all the data available – particularly around ambulance delays, the four-hour emergency target and bed occupancy both in acute beds and critical care.
“We warned the government about this in the autumn and, despite the mantra that the NHS had never been as well prepared for winter, more than a quarter (28%) of acute clinicans felt worse off than the previous year.
“Clinicians are telling us of their efforts and sacrifices but we want this type of work pattern to be reined in to avoid colleagues becoming exhausted and stressed.
“We do not currently have a sustainable model and, despite the health secretary’s very public defence of the NHS over social media with the US president, we are yet to see such engagement or be invited to his table to offer input into a meaningful and long-term solution.
“Simply lowering targets for treatment and discharge times from emergency departments as was released quietly last week will not help patients and will merely mask the issues.”
In a survey conducted by the Society for Acute Medicine last month (January 2018), 76% of clinicians working in acute medicine felt their hospitals were not adequately ppepared for winter, 59% were ‘very concerned’ about the state of their local NHS services and 97% were concerned with the position of the NHS.
In the second week of January, almost half of respondents (48%) felt their units could become ‘unsafe’ due to the pressure of numbers.