Leading care industry trade organisations and spokes people have spoken out regarding the recently released NHS England performance figures, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
“These are some of the worst figures since we started recording this data. They reflect intolerable pressure on a system which is understaffed and underfunded. This is an outcome we feared and consistently warned was likely to occur.
“This is not about increased convenience it is about the safety of patients which is now being put at risk.
“And it is not just hospitals that are under intolerable pressure – they are just the visible part of the NHS iceberg. More than 5,000 patients waited longer than 60 minutes last week in ambulances at A&E departments, community and mental health services and social care simply cannot meet demand, and GPs are at the end of their tether. Each of these services has a knock on effect on the other – and now the system is gridlocked.
“We need to break out of the cycle which sees us stumbling from budget to budget and to rethink how we fund health and care services. That means addressing both the short and long-term support needed to enable the health and care system to deliver the levels of service everyone expects.
“That is why the NHS Confederation has teamed up with the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the Health Foundation – to conduct a comprehensive objective study into the funding needs of the UK’s health and care systems for the next 15 years.
“We expect a report later this year and to use the evidence it produces to stimulate a much more informed debate among politicians and the wider public about what is needed.
“The first of two reports will be presented at the Confed’s annual conference in June.”
Richard Murray, Director of Policy for The King’s Fund, said: ‘Despite the phenomenal efforts of NHS staff, the proportion of patients seen within four hours at major A&Es in December is the lowest for well over a decade. This reflects the intense pressure on the NHS and once again highlights that this winter is proving to be the most difficult for many years. Emergency admissions are at their highest ever level for a single month and 4.5 per cent up on December last year, underlining unprecedented demand for hospital services.
‘The weekly data, while not fully validated, suggests these pressures have continued into the new year. The decision to cancel planned operations will have a significant impact on patients and is a last resort, but the figures for bed occupancy show that hospitals are effectively full.
‘Despite the welcome additional funding for the NHS in the last Budget, the service has reached the limit of what it can deliver within current funding levels. A new funding settlement is needed for the NHS and social care, building on the recommendations of the Barker Commission.’
Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, the older people’s charity:
“On the face of it, it is good news that fewer people are being stuck in hospital waiting for a care package to be put in place before they can go home. However, the increases in A&E attendance, emergency admissions and NHS 111 calls are a stark reminder of how important it is to make sure people are only discharged from hospital when they have the right support and care in place, so they don’t find themselves back in hospital days or weeks later. With so many people being discharged into a care home, it’s also essential that there are places in high-quality care homes available, so people don’t find themselves simply moved from a hospital bed, to a bed in a care home rated inadequate by CQC and then back into the over-stretched NHS.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“Today’s figures show that councils have continued to reduce the number of delayed days. This continued improvement is testament to the ongoing hard work by councils to get people out of hospital and living in their own homes and communities with the support they need in the right place and at the right time. “Councils will continue to work closely with their NHS partners locally but the Government needs to recognise that delayed transfers of care are a symptom of pressures across the whole health and care system, not their cause.
“Tackling these underlying causes must be the priority. This year’s winter health crisis and the way councils are successfully using extra social care funding from the Government this year to reduce delays should incentivise government to now fully fund our social care system.
“It is clear that there cannot be a sustainable NHS without a sustainable social care system. Social care needs to be put on an equal footing with the NHS and government needs to use the upcoming final Local Government Finance Settlement to address immediate pressures and the £2.3 billion funding gap facing social care by 2020.
“With the social care green paper months away, and subsequent legislation likely to take a long time before implementation, genuinely new money is urgently needed now to prevent social care breaching its tipping point and government needs to address this in the forthcoming final Local Government Finance Settlement
“Delivering the right care in the right place for vulnerable adults is essential and it’s positive that the number of delayed transfers of care fell last November when compared with the previous year, and it is also encouraging to see a fall of 0.8 per cent in the proportion of delays attributable to social care compared to November 2016. This is evidence that putting extra funding into social care, as the Government has done this year, can bear fruit, delivering more efficient and effective care provision.
“This also demonstrates the efforts of our resilient and highly dedicated frontline social care staff, who are doing a stellar job. Carers have been out in all weathers and recently have worked over the Christmas and New Year period, working hard to improve the lives of older people and adults of working age with disabilities.
“It’s been encouraging to see a renewed focus on social care from the Government this week, with the Department of Health’s remit expanded to include social care. However, it’s crucial that this is much more than a change in title, and that social care is treated as the essential care it is in its own right, and not just ancillary to healthcare.
“The upcoming green paper this summer could go down in history as the moment that the Government delivered the long-term sustainable funding solution that is so desperately needed, alongside the necessary resources for NHS partners. It’s essential we provide the long-term funding and sustainable future for care that our communities need, or it could be yet another missed opportunity.
“We encourage the Government to deliver this long-term funding solution, and secure effective social care for generations to come.”