The Doctors’ Association UK echoes the concern of the NHS confederation report “NHS reset” with regards to the “triple whammy” that threatens the NHS. Frontline NHS workers have been concerned about the combination of local coronavirus outbreaks, a second wave of COVID-19 and an ever-increasing backlog of NHS patients needing planned treatment such as surgery creating a health timebomb. DAUK raised these issues at its recent oral submission to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus.
Even a fully staffed and rested workforce would find this combination a challenge. Before the pandemic, the NHS was short of 106000 staff. Now, a chronically short staffed and fatigued workforce looks at the upcoming winter with great trepidation.
Waiting lists for extremely serious surgeries look set to double while more than 50,000 patients have not waited more than a year for NHS treatment. Given this, with the additional pressures of rising coronavirus cases, NHS workers need a viable and realistic strategy both to cope with the exhaustion they feel from the initial impact of the pandemic and the increased pressures the winter will bring. This will require genuine additional funding, rather than talking up and repackaging old promises. Further, there must be a strong focus on staff retention.
Without improved working conditions, DAUK fears the UK will witness increasing NHS workforce shortages with burnt-out staff quitting or reducing hours, resulting in even greater waiting lists. This will have knock on effects on an already strained economy with increased numbers of unable to work while awaiting treatment. Given this, this impending challenge must be treated with utmost gravitas.
To achieve such a strategy needs an inclusive team from all parts of the NHS contributing to a workable plan rather than relying on consultancies that have little experience on the ground.
In the immediate term, a functional and efficient testing system will go a long way towards helping to reduce the effect of coronavirus on the NHS and help reduce the burden on our services.