Hospitals lack doctors and nurses because safety and quality of patient care are at risk, senior NHS leaders warn in dramatic intervention in the general election campaign
Nine out of 10 hospital chiefs in England fear that taking services has become so serious that patients' health may be impaired. In addition, nearly six out of 10 (58%) believe this winter will be the hardest yet for service.
Opinions voiced by senior NHS figures on Tuesday will heighten anger in conservative ranks that growing health problems run the risk of disrupting the party's election campaign, which it hoped would be Brexit-dominated.
The Labor Party is trying to capitalize on public discontent over delays in access to treatment and increasingly visible employee gaps.
In a further sign of Tory's concern, ministers have agreed an extraordinary deal for the NHS to pay doctors' pension bills this year, which could cost hundreds of millions of pounds.
The scheme is aimed at stopping the recent surge in doctors working fewer shifts to avoid being hit by unexpected tax bills of up to £ 100,000. This trend has forced hospitals to cancel thousands of operating lists and outpatient clinics, further delaying access to care for patients and exacerbating staff shortages.
Ministers hope doctors in England – the only country where the stimulus is applied – will see it as a green light to continue additional shifts before the NHS winter pressures stick, without worrying that they will be severely penalized months later.
However, the deal prompted claims that it was agreed between the ministers and NHS England in accordance with the "Purdue" rules that provide for governments not to make policy changes during the election campaign.
It is presented as an "operational decision" by NHS England, but was signed – and some believe prompted – by the Treasury, the Office of the Cabinet and the Department of Health and Human Services.
A senior medical source involved in brokering a stop-gap policy said it was because ministers were "desperate" to avoid fewer shifts than doctors who combine fighting in hospitals this winter.
The source said: "They violated the Purdue regulations so massively, it's incredible. This is not operational work. This is politics. It's a shame because the Purdue rules say you can't announce a change of policy during an election. "
The 131 NHS chief executives, chairs and trustees in England have expressed serious concern about the deteriorating state of service in a study conducted by the NHS Confederation.
The findings came days after recent official figures showed that hospitals' performance in key waiting times for A&E care, cancer treatment and planned operations had fallen to the worst ever. However, many service chiefs have told the confederation that delays will last even longer when cold weather creates additional demand for care.
"There is genuine concern among NHS leaders as the winter approach approaches and this year looks particularly challenging," said Neil Dixon, chief executive of the confederation, which represents most of the NHS bodies, including hospitals, in England.
"Health leaders are deeply concerned about its ability to cope with demand, even though frontline staff are treating more patients than ever.
"There is a very real prospect of gaps in clinical shifts and patients who do not receive the quality care they need because the trust in the NHS does not have the necessary staff."
"Despite doing everything in their power, 90% of the health leaders we surveyed said that dealing with lashes put patients at risk.
"We have 100,000 clinical jobs [in England] and the prospect of growing demand unless we face the scale of the challenge, "Dixon added.
Last week's figures showed that one in four people who visit A&E hospital centers wait more than four hours to settle, record numbers have to wait in a wheelchair until bed and seven of the eight clinically important cancers are found. treatment goals are missed.
Dixon added that, even if the next government provided more money to deal with widespread staff shortages, it would take time to reduce the high vacancy rates that are common in many hospitals. The NHS is less than about 43,000 nurses and nearly 10,000 doctors, as well as paramedics and other health professionals.
He warned political parties not to raise voter expectations unreasonably during the December 12 vote on how quickly the NHS could get back on track.
"More investment is needed, but even with that, this is a system that will take time to turn around and the electorate should not be fed a rethink in the coming weeks," he said.
The King's Fund has expressed concern about the results of the survey. "Amid the political rhetoric of the general election campaign, these revelations highlight the harsh realities faced by patients across the country struggling to access NHS services," said Sally Warren, the policy director for the thinker.
"Lack of workforce already has a direct impact on the quality of people's care, with national patient surveys constantly highlighting the difficulties for patients accessing NHS services and tackling key waiting goals at worst over a decade. .
"These NHS leaders are correct – without urgent action, patient safety will be at risk."
A Confederation survey of 131 hospital bosses also found that:
76% say staff shortages are the NHS 'biggest problem.
83% say the dispute over the pensions of senior doctors is worsening.
69% say doctors who opt to work fewer hours are damaging patient care.
98% say the deepening crisis in social protection is leading to more elderly people in need of hospital care.