Despite frontline staff working as hard as possible to meet the rising demand, pressure on the NHS is continuing to increase with the latest figures showing a significant rise in the number of patients visiting A&E, and a substantial drop in the number of patients being seen within fours.
Last week (week ending December 8) there were over 110,000 emergency admissions to hospital – one of the highest since records began, and nearly 30,000 more patients visited A&E compared with this time last year, but only 91.8 per cent of patients were seen within four hours – significantly below the target of 95 per cent and down on figures from this time last year of 94.8 per cent.
This is the result of years of underfunding, and will not be turned around overnight despite politicians’ promises to commit additional money to the NHS or the recent announcement of £300m to alleviate winter pressures, which is in fact money taken from other over-stretched services and falls far short of what’s needed.
With the election looming there needs to be an urgent and honest public debate about what our health service can afford to deliver. The NHS is one of the best healthcare systems in the world but investment is now slipping behind other developed countries. It’s not too late to turn things around, but if we don’t act now it soon will be.
Dr Paul Flynn
Consultant committee chair, British Medical Association