The NHS and the General Election: The Good, The Bad and The Brexit

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Clinical Negligence Article

19 November, 2019

With the upcoming general election looming on 12th December, one of the main talking points (besides Brexit of course) is the current state of the NHS.

There has been a number of recent explosive headlines, including 'A&E Waiting Time in England at Their Worst on Record', 'Waiting Times at 'Imploding' A&E Departments are Killing Patients, Top Doc Warns', 'Hospital Waiting Times at Worst-ever Level' and 'NHS Staff Shortages Put Cancer Survival Rates at Risk', but what does this all mean for the NHS?

The latest NHS Performance Strategy, published on 14th November - the last before the general election (which can be viewed here) revealed that hospitals have missed a series of key targets, including patient waiting times for A&E and cancer care and also non-urgent operations.

In October 2019, a staggering 2.17million people attended A&E across the UK. The number of people admitted, transferred or discharged within the 4 hour target window was 1.64million people, which equates to 83.6%, which is far below the 95% target. This is the lowest performance since the target was introduced in 2004. Additionally, there were 80,092 patients waiting more than 4 hours from the decision to admit to actual admission due to the lack of beds, with more than 720 patients having to wait over 12 hours for a bed.

The 85% target to start cancer ­treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral is also being missed, with just 76.9% starting treatment within the timescale.

When it comes to the delayed transfer of care, in September 2019, there were 149,384 delayed days. The main reason for delays being patients awaiting care package in their own home, which accounted for 32,025 delayed days.

These statistics are of more concern given the growing population, the uncertainty over Brexit and the fact that winter is fast approaching (with some areas already experiencing snow) which is likely to add increasing pressure on the NHS. This increased pressure coupled with staff shortages can have a negative impact on staff's health. The Royal College of Nursing reported that there are more than 40,000 NHS vacancies and the chronic staff shortages have been blamed for the 922,210 days sickness of nurses due to stress, anxiety, depression and other psychiatric illnesses from July 2018 to March 2019.

All the political parties are proposing to increase the NHS budget. The Conservative government announced a five year funding plan last year, which would see the budget rise by 3.4% a year up to 2023. Labour have said it would spend more with 3.9% extra a year, with the Liberal Democrats proposing to use a 1p rise in income tax to invest extra in social care, mental health and public health.

The talks of the increasing budget all seem positive given that funding has failed to keep up with the rising need for healthcare in recent years and no matter who is to blame for the decline it is an issue that needs addressing as we continue to represent patients that have suffered gravely as a result of substandard delays. The results can be life changing.

For more information contact Lyndsay Baxter in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 0125 222312. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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