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Letter to The Sunday Times from RCS and NHS Providers

12 Feb 2017

As reported in the The Sunday Times today, The Royal College of Surgeons and NHS Providers are concerned that underfunding in our health services is creating more inefficiency. In a letter to the paper, Miss Clare Marx, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, and Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, raise concerns that bed shortages are leading to staff, including surgeons, left kicking their heels, waiting for beds to come available so they can operate.

The full text of the letter to The Sunday Times is below.

Dear Sir,

Compared to most European countries the NHS is underfunded. It has been assumed this is helping to drive productivity but now, at times, it is clear underfunding in our health service is creating more inefficiency.

Pressure is spread across the system, affecting hospitals, ambulance services, mental health and community trusts. Hospital bed occupancy rates are unacceptably high. In the interests of safety they should not exceed 85 per cent but overnight inpatient beds are now routinely around 89 per cent occupancy. This is partly because there is not enough social care capacity to look after our frail older patients in the community, so increasingly they can not be discharged when they are ready to leave hospital.

Bed shortages now mean staff including surgeons are sometimes left kicking their heels, waiting for beds to become available so they can operate. Too often, managers, nurses, and doctors waste time trying to find somewhere to look after patients. This is frustrating for staff who just want to care for patients – rising numbers of whom have to suffer the anxiety of having their planned operations cancelled without notice on the day.

At a time when the NHS is being told to make the most of its resources this is a shocking waste. NHS England and NHS Improvement should undertake a review of what we can do to reduce the pressures we’ve seen this winter. There must be a national debate about how much we are prepared to spend on health and care, and what kind of NHS we want to pass on to future generations. Our patients and our health service staff deserve better.

Miss Clare Marx, President, Royal College of Surgeons

Chris Hopson, Chief Executive, NHS Providers

Notes to editors

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

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