The NHS will face “extreme pressure” in the coming months without intervention from the new Government, health leaders have warned.
In a new letter to the Prime Minister, experts from across the sector called for “urgent action” to address the “considerable” pressure already felt by frontline services.
They said that the Prime Minister has inherited “an NHS in the most challenging state it has been in for decades” and public satisfaction with the service is “at the lowest point in 25 years”.
Health leaders have predicted that the coming winter will be the “busiest on record” for the service.
The letter – co-signed by the NHS Confederation, NHS Providers, National Voices, the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges and the Richmond Group of Charities – welcomes Liz Truss’s commitment to put the NHS on firm footing.
It also calls for actions in key areas to “mitigate the risks” the health service is facing “which we expect to worsen over the winter period”.
These include, it says:
– Action on workforce, with a record 132,000 unfilled posts in the NHS in England, which do not include shortages in the GP sector.
– Help for the social care sector, where there are 165,000 posts unfilled. The letter states that one in seven patients in hospitals in England are medically fit to be discharged but cannot be because of a lack of social care in the community.
– More capital funding to help put an end to “crumbling” NHS buildings and poor IT services, which are “undermining the quality, safety and efficiency of care”.
– To work to tackle the cost-of-living crisis which will not only impact patients but also NHS organisations – some of which have reported they will be paying £2 million a month more due to rising energy costs.
– Working more with people who use the health service to get the most out of it.
The authors wrote: “Without urgent action on the above five priorities, we risk failing to support the NHS to meet rising demand, with demand for general practice services and lengthening waiting times two of many consequences.”
Commenting, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The new Government has inherited an NHS and social care system in its most challenged state for decades.
“Demand for frontline care is skyrocketing, waiting time standards are deteriorating despite the sterling efforts of NHS staff, and the winter months look to be very bleak and the busiest on record.
“The cost-of-living crisis is threatening to have a real and long-lasting impact on the health and well-being of our communities up and down the country, something which the new Government must urgently address.
“The NHS needs an immediate support package but with over 130,000 vacancies and a real-terms funding cut that could stretch to £9.4 billion this year, there is no quick fix.
“Without additional support measures to address investment in capital, workforce and social care, the health and wealth of our nation will suffer in the long term.”