Increasing pressures on the NHS have raised doctors’ concerns over the ability of the service to deliver safe patient care in the next 12 months, a report reveals.
A survey of over 2,100 doctors, conducted by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), found that more than half of doctors believed patient safety had deteriorated over the last year, and one-third reported that the quality of care had fallen.
Four out of five doctors reported rising demand for services, staffing shortages within their teams, and demoralization of the workforce.
Results of the survey were reported at the RCP annual conference. Professor Jane Dacre, RCP President, said: ‘The physicians I know, and I include myself, are optimistic, positive, can-do people who produce work-round solutions to intransigent problems. However, they are being pushed to their limits and no longer are optimistic about the future.
‘We worry that there are inherent safety risks in a hospital running at full or over capacity, from an increase in hospital acquired infections to the impact of burnout from overworked staff.’
Shortages in the medical workforce are an issue in primary care as well as in hospitals, the RCP report acknowledges. It says: ‘The UK does not train enough doctors, and hospital teams are under increasing pressure from staffing gaps. We need to ensure that overall training numbers are sufficient to deliver enough doctors across all parts of the medical workforce, from GPs to physicians.’
A separate poll of more than 2,000 nurses, GPs and hospital doctors across the UK, conducted by Wilmington Healthcare UK, found that two-thirds reported that continuous and ‘demoralizing’ national changes in NHS workforce planning that had occurred since 2000 were to blame for staff retention problems in the NHS.
Key factors cited by respondents as adversely affecting the NHS’ ability to retain staff were low morale and poor pay and rewards.
In recent years, changes in NHS workforce planning said to have affected staff retention included the establishment of primary care trusts, workforce development confederations and strategic health authorities, all of which have since been abolished.
Gareth Thomas, Managing Director of Wilmington Healthcare, said: ‘The results of our survey are of particular concern as the planned introduction of STPs in April 2017 is set to bring the biggest shake-up to NHS services since the publication of the Five Year Forward View.
‘It is clear that urgent action must be taken to support staff and help them manage the huge changes that are envisaged.’