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The NHS is ‘collapsing’ – leading medic warns

The British Medical Association said that the NHS is ‘flashing red’ on almost all performance measures.

Ella Pickover
Monday 03 July 2023 23:40 BST
The BMA has warned that the NHS is ‘collapsing’ (James Manning/PA)
The BMA has warned that the NHS is ‘collapsing’ (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

The NHS is “collapsing” and doctors are being forced to apologise to their patients because they cannot provide adequate care, a leading medic has warned.

Dr Phil Banfield, chairman of council at the British Medical Association, described the “frighteningly common” situation where dying patients are forced to sleep in a corridor or on a chair while “hospitals (are) failing and falling apart and ambulances (are) stacked outside emergency departments”.

Addressing the union’s annual representative meeting in Liverpool, Dr Banfield said that almost every metric measuring the health service’s performance is “flashing red” as he warned that the NHS 75th anniversary celebration “threatens to be a wake”.

Sleeping in a corridor or or a chair is frighteningly common, and remember this may be people for whom this is the last day of their life

Dr Phil Banfield

On the publication of the long-term workforce plan for the health service, he said that the “crisis is now and the crunch is today”, adding: “investing in medical school places while refusing to reverse years of pay erosion is illogical”.

In his keynote address to the conference, Dr Banfield said: “As we look at our health service today, we see hospitals failing and falling apart and ambulances stacked outside emergency departments.

“We look patients in the eye and apologise when we’ve not been able to provide the care and treatment we have been trained to give.

“All around us the NHS is collapsing.

“Where we are today is not the result of the pandemic, nor due to new economic challenges precipitated by war in Europe, we’ve been warning of catastrophe for 10 years, it’s now arrived.

“This devastation has been wrought by successive UK governments.”

On the long-term workforce plan, he added: “Thank you for a costed workforce plan at last. But this ignores that the crisis is now the crunch is today.

“Who will train the workforce? Who will teach medicine when there are no medics and academics left?

“Investing in medical school places while refusing to reverse years of pay erosion is illogical.

“And we saw the Prime Minister unable to answer questions about why pay wasn’t part of their retention strategy.”

Dr Banfield also spoke about the NHS’ 75th anniversary, on July 5.

He told delegates: “This week The NHS celebrates its 75th anniversary. I remain immensely proud to work as a doctor in an organisation I truly believe in.

“But as we know, waiting lists have never been higher, cancer targets are missed, emergency departments are overwhelmed.

“Sleeping in a corridor or or a chair is frighteningly common, and remember this may be people for whom this is the last day of their life.

“Those needing mental health support a cruelly sent across the country – this government said that that practice would stop by now, yet another failed promise.

“The same government that said it would expand GP numbers by 5,000, instead we have over 2,000 fewer full-time equivalent GPS than in 2015 while patient numbers soar.

Almost every metric for understanding what is happening is flashing red right now

Dr Phil Banfield

“In England we are almost 50,000 Doctors short of the OECD and EU nation average.

“Almost every metric for understanding what is happening is flashing red right now.

“What’s the government’s response? Heap more work on an already burnt-out workforce. Repeat lines to the press about how much they value doctors while simultaneously cutting the value of pay. Taking the nurses union to court – shameful.

“This government takes pride in beating the very workers who care for the people of this country.

“This NHS is far removed from the one we want to be celebrating at 75. Its birthday threatens to be a wake.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “As we celebrate the NHS’s 75th birthday this week, we have so much to be proud of and are making progress on our plans to recover and improve services, backed by record funding.

“There are more staff than ever before working in the NHS which has led to a record number of cancer patients being treated over the last two years – and in April there were a record number of diagnostic tests carried out per working day.

“We’re also tackling the backlog caused by the pandemic and have reduced the number of patients waiting more than 18 months by over 90% since the September 2021 peak and virtually eliminated two-year waits for treatment, despite more people coming forward for treatment.

“The NHS has published the first ever Long Term Workforce Plan, backed by over £2.4 billion Government funding to deliver the biggest training expansion in NHS history alongside measures to improve culture, leadership and wellbeing.”

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