NHS emergency care is ‘systemic national crisis’, warns House of Lords report


he state of emergency healthcare in England is “in crisis”, a major report commissioned by the House of Lords has warned.

The report, released on Thursday by the Lords’ Public Services Committee, urges Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to convene a Cobra meeting to address the crisis.

Patients across the country are facing record waits for treatment in A&E and for ambulances. A lack of capacity in the social care system means that many hospital beds are occupied by patients in need of social care who have nowhere else to go.

The crisis in the NHS is systemic, the report argues, and stems from “unmet need in primary and community care”.

“Waiting for care, patients experience distress and lengthy delays, leading to substantial clinical risk.

The Government and Royal College of Nursing are in a dispute over pay

/ PA Wire

“Emergency healthcare, a key component in the national health service, has been allowed to degenerate, and it is likely to get worse. We see no sign that there is an adequate plan or the necessary leadership to address this,” the report says.

The author’s go on to claim that figures on A&E wait times released monthly have been “widely underestimated”.

“The data published monthly on waiting times exceeding 12 hours does not reflect the patient experience because the clock only starts when a clinician has made the decision to admit a patient to hospital, rather than when that patient entered A&E. This was described to us as ‘a fundamentally dishonest way of reporting data’”.

A total of 9,588 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in London in December from a decision to admit to actually being admitted – a jump of 34 per cent on the previous month.

Ambulance delays for life-threatening calls also reached a new record high in December, with the average response time for a Category 1 call in England rising to almost 11 minutes.

These delays for emergency treatment create “fear, distress and suffering” for patients, the report says, whilst also leaving ambulance workers “fatigued and depleted”.

Staff retention is also an issue in emergency care services with pay concerns “repeatedly raised”. Strike action by ambulance workers who are members of the GMB, Unite and Unison unions is ongoing as part of a pay dispute with the Government.

The report recommends that ministers “continue working to increase the number of beds” in hospitals and ensure these beds are sufficiently staffed as a short-term fix.

In the long-term, it suggests that ministers should devote more of the NHS budget to cover social care costs, particularly boosting pay for workers.


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