NHS pressure remains relentless and leaders must recognise failings – SAM president

Following the release today of NHS performance data for June, Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said:

“The system remains under significant strain and one wonders how many more times performance targets have to be missed for government and NHS leaders to accept they have failed to meet the challenges presented to them over recent years.

“This is meant to be the time when services are least stretched and staff have an opportunity to draw breath but the numbers are staggering – more than 17,500 people needing emergency admission every day in June with a 5% increase in 12 months and the number of patients “stuck” in acute beds is identical to to this time last year (4,500).

“These two mean the pressure remains relentless and people are suffering delays in getting care, notably the 12-hour breach number was 375% more this June compared to 2018.

“As we lurch from one period of pressure to another without any noticeable respite there is now an incredibly serious worry on the horizon in Australian flu which could cause chaos in the UK.

“If the experience in Australia – 75,000 cases up on the same period in 2018 – is replicated then we would see a similar situation to the “bad” winter of 2017 well before we move into winter proper.

“It would be unknown how the NHS would cope given that even in the middle of summer many of our hospitals still have a large proportion of so-called extra capacity in use.

“There would need to be some very firm finger crossing for us to avoid disaster given the current challenges, particularly given the likely lack of senior staff available to provide service-saving overtime due to the now well-publicised and unresolved issues with tax and the NHS pension scheme.”