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Government should declare “national emergency” over NHS crisis, say peers

Pressures on emergency health services are so bad that the UK government should declare a “national emergency” and call a meeting of the Civil Contingencies Committee (COBRA)—the body summoned periodically to deal with matters of major disruption—peers have said.

The cross party House of Lords Public Services Committee said in a report that the government needed to respond with an emergency approach and steps to remedy the situation in the longer term.

A recurring theme of the report is the substantial delays highlighted by the media in recent months, which peers said were caused by a “broken” model of primary and community care. This was driving unmet need in directing patients to hospitals where many remained longer than clinically necessary because of inadequate social care.

The report recommended that the Department of Health and Social Care should mandate a greater presence of clinical staff in NHS 111 control centres to help boost numbers of clinicians in the 999 and 111 services. This would mean that patients were directed to the right services more quickly thanks to better triaging of calls, which could mean fewer patients being passed to emergency or urgent care services.

Another suggestion was for the government to introduce more incentives for faster safe discharges from hospitals, with more capacity in hospitals and social care to help people move through the health system more quickly.

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Source: BMJ, 19 January 2023

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