NHS is facing an existential crisis

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has conceded there are difficulties facing the NHS and said there is “no excuse” for them

A series of reports carried out by the BBC has prompted the Health Secretary to speak out about the problems highlighted in the NHS.

Jeremy Hunt said there was “no excuse” for the problems showcased during the BBC’s NHS Week, and deemed it as “completely unacceptable”.

The reports revealed patients were being left for hours on trolleys and wait times in Accident and Emergency were on the rise. Routine operation waiting times have also reportedly risen by 163 per cent in four years.

Other issues included the fact nine in 10 hospitals said they had an unsafe number of patients on their wards over the winter, and patients revealed they had been stuck in hospital for months because community care was unavailable.

Community care

Hunt said the key to tackling pressures on the NHS was to treat more people “at home and in the community”. He also said there was a “big transformation programme” under way, but said this would take time to implement.

Hunt said: “We are trying very hard to sort out these problems,” but acknowledged progress had been “disappointingly slow” in some areas.

He added: “Where I disagree with some of your [the BBC] coverage is the idea this is a problem unique to the NHS.”

Hunt said the ageing population was putting pressure on all health systems, not just the UK’s, with issue also being seen in France and Germany. He also noted that nearly £4bn extra funding had been spent on the NHS this year. This represents almost a four per cent increase in the frontline budget, but this is less than the NHS has typically seen.

Issues in the social care sector were said to be part of the reason the NHS was facing so many problems, as patients are not able to leave hospitals because there are not the facilities in place to support them. Hunt said tackling this was high on the government’s agenda.

“The prime minister has been very clear. We recognise the pressure’s there. We recognise there is a problem about the sustainability of the social care system,” he said.

“That has to be addressed and we are going to do that.”

Existential Crisis in the NHS

Sir Robert Francis, who investigated the problems seen at Mid Staffordshire, said the NHS was facing an “existential crisis”. He warned other scenarios similar to this were “inevitable” and said the NHS was “manifestly failing” to keep up with demand.

He added: “The message is put out that we are putting more money into the service than we ever did and it is the best health service around.

“But against that there is a front-line feeling that things have never been as bad as they are now and we can’t deal with the pressures.”

Labour Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said: “A few weeks ago the prime minister was glibly dismissing concerns as amounting to nothing more than a ‘small number of incidents’.

“I’m pleased the secretary of state is waking up to the scale of the crisis.”

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