Majority of doctors worried about future patient safety

ALMOST three-quarters of doctors fear their service may be unable to deliver safe patient care in the next 12 months, according to a survey by the Royal College of Physicians.

More than half (55 per cent) believe patient safety has deteriorated in the past year while 84 per cent have been affected by staff shortages within their team.

The RCP questioned its members about their experiences of delivering healthcare, and how confident they were about raising concerns. The responses from more than 2,100 physicians painted a picture of a health service struggling with rising patient demand, poor staff morale and safety concerns.

Comments included references to "firefighting", "papering over the cracks" and "hanging on by their claws", while others said "I feel like I’m on the Titanic", and "55 escalation beds in operation today with no extra medical or nursing staff. Completely unsafe". Another doctor said: "Even when care is safe, it is more often being provided in a way that damages patient dignity".

When asked about raising concerns about patient safety, less than half of doctors (47 per cent) felt colleagues were confident about speaking out while 79 per cent didn’t know who their Freedom to Speak Up guardian is.

The report, NHS Reality Check: delivering care under pressure,was launched at the College’s annual conference in Manchester. In her speech to delegates, RCP president Professor Jane Dacre said the figures would "not come as a surprise to anyone in the room". She said many doctors were being pushed to their limits and were "no longer optimistic about the future".

The report made a number of calls for action including increased NHS and social care funding, and greater investment in the NHS workforce and social care provision. It said: "We need a new plan for health and social care: a plan designed to meet the UK’s health and care needs in the long term, and to value, support and motivate NHS staff."

Read the report on the RCP website

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