Winter surprises NHS on an annual basis


Pressures on NHS increase as Winter approaches

Lack of planning by the NHS for winter brings a plethora of problems for every hospital’s A&E department (among others) when the season strikes.

The annual NHS bed crisis rears it’s head with a tedious predictability in the eyes of many. The National Health Service has been running for 66 years, and to learn of yet another case of the NHS being unprepared for winter has outraged many, particularly because the bad weather is yet to begin.

The national political rhetoric seems to point blame at GPs for failing to provide appointments, thus leaving patients to turn to the A&E departments. However, there is a failure to acknowledge that GPs have provided an additional 1,450 consultations every year when compared with 2009, this is a 10% productivity increase despite budget cuts. Thus, GPs ought to be applauded not scapegoated.

The root cause for the annual winter blunder is far more complex, it is due to a concoction of factors. These include poor out-of-hours access to GPs, changes in demographics, and an increasing population, as well as significant A&E cuts. These have been exacerbated further by the alterations to the immigration policy which makes it more difficult for doctors from abroad to help in the UK.

These doctors would support the NHS and industry by taking jobs in inner-city areas, therefore the policy changes have left significant shortages in these areas.

A&Es are routinely operating with only 60% staff capacity, as budgets are being spent on hiring locums to fill in vacancies temporarily.  Other factors such as the public seeking GP attention for even minor ailments, are also adding to the strain on the NHS and it’s struggle to manage demands.

However, perhaps what is more disconcerting is the long-term lack of planning for these external and internal factors by the NHS. The NHS has many amends to make and many obstacles in it’s path, the same path which will grow icier as the winter chill arrives.