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Next government should declare NHS a national emergency, experts warn

The NHS is in such a dire state the next government should declare it a national emergency, experts are warning, as it emerged that record numbers of patients are being denied timely cancer treatment.

It is facing an “existential threat” because of years of underinvestment, serious staff shortages and the demands of the ageing population, according to a group of leading doctors and NHS leaders.

Whoever wins power after the general election will have to “relaunch” the health service and ask the public to do what they can to help save it and preserve its founding principles, they say.

The call, by a commission of experts assembled by the BMJ medical journal, comes as new figures show that since 2020 more than 200,000 people in England have not received potentially life-saving surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy within the NHS’s supposed maximum 62-day wait. Professor Pat Price, a leading NHS oncologist who helped analyse NHS cancer care data, said that the UK was facing “the deepest cancer crisis” of her 30-year career treating cancer patients. 

The acute concern about the NHS’s ability to cope with the rising tide of illness deepened last night when A&E doctors claimed that a government plan launched a year ago to relieve the strain on overcrowded emergency departments had made no difference. A&E remains in “permacrisis” while care in units is “as unsafe, or more unsafe, than at this time last year”, despite Rishi Sunak hailing his “ambitious and credible plan to fix it”.

Although 5,000 more hospital beds have been created, the “half-baked” plan has “made little real difference to the experience of patients and the working conditions of health care professionals”, said Dr Ian Higginson, the vice-president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

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Source: Guardian, 31 January 2024


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