THE NHS is a system "pushed to its limits", says the Royal College of Physicians in response to survey results in its NHS Reality Check Update 2018.
Over 1,500 physicians in England, Wales and Northern Ireland replied to the survey featuring the same questions asked in a similar time period last year. The RCP says the responses indicate a worsening situation in nearly all areas of care, with 64 per cent of doctors believing that patient safety has deteriorated over the past year – 10 per cent higher than last year.
The report also found that 93 per cent experienced staff shortages across the team (9 per cent higher) and 84 per cent believe that the workforce is demoralised (2 per cent higher). Rising demand for services was cited by 85 per cent (7 per cent higher) and 47 per cent cited lower-quality care over the past year (10 per cent higher).
Over 80 per cent of physicians express worry about the ability of their service to deliver safe patient care in the next 12 months (6 per cent higher than last year).
To address the "crisis" the RCP recommends that in the short-term government needs to make the UK more accessible and attractive to doctors from other countries by relaxing visa restrictions for the healthcare workforce and building on successful schemes such as the Medical Training Initiative.
The RCP believes that, in the long term, government, NHS organisations, royal colleges, professions, trade unions, regulators, higher education institutions and think tanks need to work together to make sure the NHS has the workforce and resources it needs. Funding for health and social care must match growing patient need, and there must be more investment in public health initiatives that reduce that need.
RCP president Professor Jane Dacre said: "It is extremely worrying and depressing that our doctors have experienced an even worse winter than last year, particularly when so much effort was put into forward planning and cancelling elective procedures to enable us to cope better. We simply cannot go through this again – it is not as if the situation was either new or unexpected.
"As the NHS reaches 70, our patients deserve better – somehow, we need to move faster towards a better resourced, adequately staffed NHS during 2018 or it will happen again."