NHS is unsafe, says chief

The Sunday Times Sarah-Kate Templeton, Health Editor reports 13th October 2013: ( I apologise for printing in full but regard this as too important to be incomplete)

“THE top medical official responsible for running the NHS in London has  admitted that the service is at times unsafe for patients because doctors  and nurses are spread too thinly.

In his stark assessment of the state of the service, Dr Andy Mitchell, medical  director for NHS England in London, said London hospitals were at “breaking  point”. It is unprecedented for an official at this level to give such a  damning critique of the NHS and comes before a report by NHS England  tomorrow that shows the capital’s health system is “unsustainable”.

The report says that keeping all London’s hospitals running in their current  form would lead to a £4bn shortfall over the next seven years.

Health chiefs say half the casualty departments in the capital will have to  shut to make the service sustainable. The problems in London are seen as a  precursor to those in the rest of the country — the NHS faces a £30bn  funding gap by 2020.

“At times, throughout the week, even throughout the day, services aren’t  safe,” Mitchell said. “I feel anxious sometimes about saying it is unsafe,  because I, of course, have got a responsibility to change it and improve it,  but we are trying to patch up all the time.”

He added: “What we cannot do is carry on with the idea that all hospitals  provide a whole range of services. That is completely unsustainable and  would become, frankly, unsafe, and is becoming unsafe in many areas.”

NHS England says the health service cannot afford to staff all its hospitals  at safe levels, especially at weekends. Mitchell says the public must face  up to the reality that the hospitals are so overstretched that they are  getting a poor service. “They [the public] don’t understand now how watered  down these services are,” he said. “Their expectation is that, as they walk  into hospital, they get high-quality service and, in fact, they don’t in  many places.”

The problems are not restricted to London. Sir David Nicholson, the outgoing  chief executive of NHS England, has warned of a massive funding gap if NHS  services are run in the same way as they are now.

Tomorrow, health chiefs in London will explain that with zero financial growth  planned for the NHS and increasing demands for services from a growing and  ageing population, the public must accept that hospitals must be shut or  downgraded to medical centres.

The report says: “London’s hospital services are becoming increasingly  unsustainable, both clinically and financially. In many cases they are no  longer fit for purpose.”

To make the NHS more affordable and safer, the number of A&E units in  London should be reduced to about 50% while the number of paediatric and  maternity departments should be cut and centralised in larger units, NHS  England says. This would make it easier to staff the hospitals at safe  levels. The number of hospitals carrying out emergency surgery and treating  patients who have suddenly become seriously ill will also be reduced.

No doubt that this article and the recording support the contention of this website. More money by itself is not enough. Rationing overtly will help, but again is not enough. Open exit interviews could change the culture eventually, but not fast enough. Reconstruction and change of hospital/trust ownership may well be needed to energise the workforce, and to clear out those employees who give the UK Regional Health service hospitals one of the highest sickness and absenteeism rate in the world. What I believe….

Updated 14th October.

Loving the NHS to death…The Times 22nd June

Also covered by the Daily Mail

And the BBC in “London Hospitals are at breaking point”.

It seems the Jimmy Saville affair supports this post headline:

Jimmy Savile NHS abuse probe: ‘Up to 30’ hospitals involved!!

Comment from the BMJ: Supporting poorly performing (NHS) hospitals to improve.

This entry was posted in A Personal View, Professionals, Stories in the Media, Trust Board Directors on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

1 thought on “NHS is unsafe, says chief

  1. Pingback: Physiotherapy and counselling for NHS staff in drive to cut sickness rates | NHS reality. An NHS soapbox. Speakers' corner for the NHS.

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