‘NHS functioning on life support only’ says SAM president

Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, provides an update on current NHS pressures and the impact on acute care (28 December):

“As hopefully many enjoy a festive period, each component of the NHS and social care is under increasing strain with limited capacity to absorb any further surges in a hugely pressured winter. 

“The system has survived the impact of COVID through collaboration and innovation supported by patient engagement but exhausted staff and services mean it is functioning on life support only.

“Overcrowding in acute care settings results in worse patient outcomes. This is heightened during viral pandemics where cross-infection can occur. Staffing levels have also been floored by the Omicron variant.

“Overstretched acute care services mean that elective beds are used for emergency patients and this exacerbates the problem with long waiting lists and impacts those waiting for urgent investigations and surgical procedures.

“Elective care will never function satisfactorily if other parts of the service are under significant strain. Acute care staff, like all NHS colleagues, strive to provide high quality care. The current workload pressures often mean that acute care isn’t managed in as timely a fashion as we wish to deliver.

“This worsens the low morale of staff further and is a hugely important but often overlooked facet of the current pressures.

“Alongside the current short term challenges, it is essential that long-term solutions and innovations are supported to improve acute care. Workforce and capacity are two essential aspects in ensuring this is achieved. This is imperative to ensure that safe, sustainable and world class acute care can be delivered – a vision we all share.”