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Jeremy Hunt ‘ignored’ NHS staff shortages while health secretary

Jeremy Hunt has been accused of ignoring serious NHS staff shortages for years and driving medics out of the profession while health secretary after he intervened this weekend to warn of a workforce crisis.

Promoting his new book, 'Zero: Eliminating Unnecessary Deaths in a Post-Pandemic NHS', Hunt said tackling the “chronic failure of workforce planning” was the most important task in relieving pressure on frontline services. Now the chair of the health and social care committee, he said the situation was “very, very serious”, with doctors and nurses “run ragged by the intensity of work”.

But his comments drew sharp criticism from healthcare staff, who said Hunt – the longest-serving health secretary in the 74-year history of the NHS – failed to take sufficient action to boost recruitment while in the top job between 2012 and 2018. Instead, critics said, his tenure saw health workers quit the NHS in droves for jobs abroad or new careers outside medicine. There are now 100,000 vacancies in the NHS, and the waiting list for treatment has soared to 6.4 million.

“There’s an avalanche of pressure bearing down on the NHS. But for years Jeremy Hunt and other ministers ignored the staffing crisis,” said Sara Gorton, the head of health at Unison, the UK’s largest health union. “The pandemic has amplified the consequences of that failure. Experienced employees are leaving at faster rates than new ones can be recruited.”

“Hunt has recently been an articulate analyst of current issues, particularly workforce shortages, but these haven’t come out of the blue,” said Dr Colin Hutchinson, the chair of Doctors for the NHS. “At the time he could have made the greatest impact, his response was muted. We have to ask: was the service people were receiving from the NHS better, or worse, at the end of his time in office? At the time when it most mattered, he was found wanting.”

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Source: The Guardian, 15 May 2022

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Secret stats show A&E crisis four times worse than reported

New figures leaked to HSJ show the true volume of 12-hour waiters in emergency departments is more than four times higher than official statistics suggest.

Internal NHS England figures for February and March show around one in five admissions through ED waited more than 12 hours from arriving until being admitted to a ward – equating to around 158,000 cases.

The official stats published by NHSE record a slightly different, and shorter, time period, from ‘decision to admit’ to admission. There were around 39,000 of these cases in the same two months, which equates to 4 per cent of admissions through ED, and 5.4 per cent of total emergency admissions.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has long called for the official stats to reflect the total time spent from arrival in ED (as per the internal data), and for trusts to be measured and regulated on this.

Senior medics have for some time been warning about the patient safety risks of long waiting in EDs and have appealed to NHS England and the government for plans to tackle the crisis.

Adrian Boyle, vice president of RCEM, said: “This data show the scale of long waiting times in emergency departments and the scale of the patient safety crisis. Performance continues to deteriorate across multiple metrics meaning we are documenting a failing urgent and emergency care system without any system transformation or improvement."

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Source: HSJ, 13 May 2022

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