Unacceptable waits for urgent care must not be new normal – SAM president

Commenting on the latest NHS performance data released today (14 July) and the current pressures facing the system, Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said:

“The number of patients waiting for prolonged periods for urgent care remains unacceptable and must not be seen as the new normal.

“Increasingly people will themselves, or had a friend or family member who has, experienced a long wait for emergency care or be on an NHS waiting list.

“Performance data now routinely illustrates that patients are continuing to experience overcrowding in acute care settings with flow throughout the system impaired.

“Patients are being stuck for extortionately long periods in emergency departments and acute medical units (AMUs) which results in worse patient outcomes.

“Due to this, paramedics are then stuck unable to transfer their patients into hospitals and get back on the road, resulting in 999 patients being left at home for longer periods without clinical assessment and treatment, driving public concern that they may not get an ambulance at their time of most need.

“Of more immediate concern is that this data lags behind the situation seen on the shop floor in hospitals over the past week.

“The heat and a rise in COVID have seen colleagues witness increased delays for acutely unwell patients and hospitals are not designed to cope with persistent high temperatures.

“While these are not the fundamental issues behind the problems we are seeing in the NHS, they demonstrate a complete lack of resilience in the system to cope with any extra challenges and make conditions for patients and staff even worse.

“High staff absence levels, burn out and low morale have dominated staff landscapes during this time and continue to do so.

“Urgent plans are required for both short-term and long-term strategies to tackle the workforce and capacity challenges and must be a key priority for whoever the next person to occupy number 10 is – and whoever they subsequently appoint as the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.”