Chris Smyth reports in the Times on the reality of the staff shortages, which are worsening as those who failed to move on to pastures new fail to manage the brutal workload. “100,000 job vacancies as NHS pushed to limit” in the Times 22nd of Feb 2018. Stories of leaderless dysfunctional consultant teams spread over wide regions, of GPs who take sabbaticals being shocked that even after a break they cannot cope, and resulting early retirements are legion. There are only politicians to blame, as the administrators are only doing their behest. There is a risk of anger, walkouts, burnouts, and serious mistakes through a collusion of denial and disengagement. Exit interviews conducted by an outside and independent HR department are now an essential and emergency need.
About 100,000 NHS posts are vacant and hospital deficits are twice as high as planned even after a winter bailout, according to official figures.
A rapid financial deterioration means that hospitals have overspent by £1.3 billion so far this financial year while waiting times have not improved.
Patient numbers continue to rise, with 5.6 million A&E visits in the three months to December, a quarter of a million more than in the same period the previous year.
Despite efforts to improve links with social care, patients spent almost half a million nights stuck in hospital over the quarter.
One in 11 NHS posts cannot be filled amid a shortage of doctors and nurses. In London, one in seven nursing posts is empty, rising to almost a quarter in the ambulance service. Overall 35,000 posts for nurses are vacant and 9,500 for doctors.
Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “All the evidence shows that standards of patient care rise and fall as nurse numbers do. That was the lesson from Mid Staffordshire and we cannot afford to forget it.”
Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust think tank, said that the “dangerous” shortage of nurses was more worrying than worsening NHS finances.
“Shortages of nurses damage patient care and make working life harder for those who remain, potentially driving them away too,” he said. “We can bring back more money onstream if the will is there, but there is no button to push which will suddenly bring us tens of thousands of qualified extra staff.”
Hospitals warned that they were being “pushed to the limit” by rising patient numbers. “Having one in eleven posts vacant makes it much more difficult to provide high-quality care,” Saffron Cordery, of the lobby group NHS Providers, said. “There is an increasing feeling among frontline trust leaders of ‘We cannot carry on like this’.
carry on like this’.“The NHS has shown extraordinary resilience in sustaining performance in the midst of an unprecedented financial squeeze. We have managed to keep the show on the road. But the warning signs are now clear and in plain sight. The time to act is now.”
Officials pinned the blame for worsening finances on a minority of hospitals that were overspending by far more than planned. However, Richard Murray, director of policy for the King’s Fund, the independent health charity, said this “raises serious questions about how reasonable the financial targets were in the first place . . . these are not pressures that have sprung up in the last few months and [they] show no sign of abating.”
Ian Dalton, chief executive of NHS Improvement, the financial regulator that published the figures, said: “More people than ever before are going to emergency departments up and down the country at a time when providers are already having to tighten their belts. It would be unrealistic to assume the demand, which has been building for a number of years, is going to reverse.”