The Royal College of Emergency Medicine is urging patients to lobby MPs for action to address the “serious challenges” facing Emergency Departments across the UK.
The call comes as data show the worst ever four-hour emergency care performance at just 76.9 percent for February - falling well short of the 95 percent target - at major emergency departments.
The data also show that bed occupancy remained dangerously high at 95.1 percent, significantly above the recommended safe bed occupancy level in England of 85 percent.
“Unfortunately these figures are not surprising and reflect the acute and detrimental effect insufficient resources are having on our health service; patient care will continue to suffer until this changes,” said College president Dr Taj Hassan.
“Performance that once would have been regarded as utterly unacceptable has now become normal and things are seemingly only getting worse for patients.”
He also said that while performance issues are particularly pronounced during the winter season, A&E departments are now struggling to cope all year round.
“The current crisis was wholly predictable and is due to a failure to prioritise the need to increase healthcare funding on an urgent basis,” he noted, adding: “We need an adequate number of hospital beds, more resources for social care and to fund our staffing strategies that we have previously agreed in order to deliver decent basic dignified care. We would urge our patients to contact their MP to tell them so.”
“Understandably public satisfaction with the health service has fallen. But patients are not blaming individual trusts or staff. They quite rightly understand that this is the fault of our politicians, which is why we are asking for their help to change the situation,” added Mr Derek Prentice, the College’s lead patient representative and Lay Committee chair.
“Coming in the midst of the longest funding squeeze in the history of the NHS and growing staffing shortages, the crisis we are seeing in our A&Es was sadly predictable,” said Richard Murray, Director of Policy for The King’s Fund, commenting on the latest figures.
“Unless the government finds significantly more money for the NHS, we face an inexorable drift back to the long waiting times we saw in the 1990s. The NHS cannot continue to rely on the motivation and goodwill of staff to paper over the cracks,” he stressed.
According to the think tank’s latest quarterly report for the NHS, the way things stand providers are on track to book a deficit for the current financial year of £931 million, substantially higher than the £791 million shortfall booked for 2016/17.
A health care survey undertaken by the group also showed that 78 percent of responding clinical commissioning groups were considering extending the number of low-value treatments and prescriptions that will no longer be funded, while 56 percent said there were considering extending waiting lists or reducing activity for certain elective specialties to reduce deficit.