NHS performance data shows another month of ‘extreme struggle’ and need for action on workforce – SAM president

Following the release today of the latest NHS performance data which shows among other things that the number of people waiting for non-urgent operations on the NHS in England has risen to more than 6.1 million people and 16,404 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments to be admitted to hospital, Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said:

“It is no surprise to see yet another month of extreme struggle against performance targets given the lack of action to tackle workforce and capacity issues across the NHS.

“The years of seasonal winter pressures in urgent and emergency care are long gone and all the signs already indicate the whole year challenges we now face will mean the impact on patients over summer will be significant without immediate action.

“We will make very little progress until it is recognised that if you do not increase the total pool of workers in any particular area then any new services or plans that are launched will result in taking current staff from another service that will suffer the consequences. 

“Although the focus is currently on the extremely necessary catch-up in elective work before those patients become emergency cases, it must not be forgotten that the non-elective (urgent and emergency areas) are also suffering a significant peak in sustained workload. 

“Elective and emergency care are co-dependent and neither will deliver high quality patient outcomes without the other – effectively there will be no elective recovery without emergency care recovery.

“For a functioning system we need both areas to be properly staffed and not pinch from one to suit shorter term expediencies in another, or to start up new services of yet unproven value that may actually increase the total workload rather than reduce its burden.

“The focus should be on utilising the effective systems at our disposal and the specialty of acute medicine with established acute medical units and same day emergency care (SDEC) needs investment and resource to function and enable a recovery of urgent and emergency care.”