In this letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, calls on Steve Barclay to ask the Government to develop a long-term workforce strategy for the NHS. She also requests that the government urgently fund social care and calls on Steve Barclay to take action to remedy the threat to patient safety caused by staff shortages.
Dear Secretary of State,
The Patients Association calls on you to act now to prevent a deterioration in NHS services that will inevitably lead to unnecessary deaths.
Last autumn, we wrote to your predecessor and asked him to act to protect the NHS. Unfortunately, he did not. The NHS hardly survived through the winter and now the situation is rapidly approaching catastrophe.
Your call for hackathons to figure out how ambulance service performance can be improved is a distraction. Your focus should be on the patients and what they need, not a hastily arranged table-top exercise. Patients are waiting for ambulances that are hours late, others are stuck in the back of an ambulance outside A&E for hours, and patients are dying. Please imagine how terrifying that must be for patients and how stressful for staff listening to all the calls coming in of other patients in distress who also need help.
It is past time the Government got to grips with the main reasons the NHS is on a cliff edge. Those reasons are: shortages in workforce across all parts of the NHS and social care; and lack of investment in social care, which is preventing hospitals from discharging medically fit people.
We back the NHS Confederation’s call for a rescue package for social care. Immediate investment in the sector is urgently needed – in fact, it’s long overdue. As the Confederation says, and we have said previously, Government must take action to make social care a sector that is attractive to work in and where staff is valued and properly paid.
But we would add that immediate investment in social care is needed. Extra funding for social care will ensure hospitals can safely discharge medically fit patients into the community, freeing capacity in the NHS.
We also repeat calls we made in January for a long-term workforce strategy. We are among many organisations who have been asking for the Government to develop such a strategy.
Please do not allow patients, terrified in the back of an ambulance yards away from doctors and nurses, to become the norm. Please do not wait for patients to die because there are not enough doctors and nurses to provide safe levels of care. Please be the Secretary of State who worked in partnership with patients, the NHS, and the professions to develop a robust long-term workforce strategy and invested in social care.
Rachel Power, Chief Executive, the Patients Association