Rishi Sunak holds NHS crisis talks at No10 as health service pushed to breaking point

 (PA)
(PA)

Rishi Sunak is hosting crisis talks in Downing Street in attempt to reverse the issues within the NHS.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay, social care minister Helen Whately, NHS England chief executive officer Amanda Pritchard, and Sir Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England all attended the NHS recovery forum meeting on Saturday morning.

Despite the crisis talks, senior doctors say the NHS is on a knife edge, with many A&E units struggling to keep up with demand and trusts and ambulance services declaring critical incidents.

Discharge rates fell to a new low in England last week, with only a third of those patients ready to be released from hospital leaving.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said there were "no silver bullets" to solving the crisis currently being experienced at hospitals and other care centres.

"This crisis has been a decade or more in the making and we are now paying the high price for years of inaction and managed decline," said Mr Taylor.

"Patients are experiencing delays that we haven’t seen for years.

"High levels of flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and rising Covid levels are exacerbating the problem but the cause is decades of under-investment in staffing, capital and the lack of a long-term solution to the capacity-crunch facing social care.

"None of these problems can be solved tomorrow."

The meeting comes as nurses and ambulance drivers prepare to take industrial action later this month.

Junior doctors may also strike in March depending on the result of a ballot next week.

Mr Barclay will meet with union leaders on Monday to discuss NHS pay for the next financial year.

However, Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen has told the Prime Minister to "grasp the nettle and negotiate with nurses" over the current settlement to prevent planned strikes.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "We’ll, of course, go to the meeting and make the case for nursing in all forums, but it’s sadly not what’s going to prevent strike action that’s planned for 10 days’ time.

"I have put out an olive branch to get us to the table, I’m asking the Prime Minister now to meet the RCN halfway. The ball is firmly in the Prime Minister’s court."