Most trusts providing a decent service under extraordinary pressure
09 January 2017
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt today made an oral statement to parliament about mental health service improvements and maintaining NHS performance standards.
The health secretary acknowledged that the NHS has been under sustained pressure for a number of years, and said that as a result, current demand is unprecedented.
Hunt paid tribute to the 1.3 million NHS staff and 1.4 million staff in the social care system, saying they have "never worked harder" to keep patients safe. He added: "The whole country is in their debt".
He outlined a series of measures to be considered by NHS England and NHS Improvement which may be taken in particularly distressed systems on a temporary basis, but said it is "clear" that "an honest discussion with the public about the purpose of A&E departments" is needed.
Responding to Hunt's statement, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said:
“The health secretary is right to pay tribute to frontline NHS staff who are working at full stretch in the face of unprecedented demand to provide safe and timely care. NHS trusts have led the way in introducing measures to help ease these pressures.
“In reality, the NHS is neither “breaking down” nor “coping well”. The vast majority of trusts are managing to provide a decent service for patients and service users considering the pressure they are under. Very few are meeting the four-hour standard in A&E. But fewer still are experiencing persistently large numbers of trolley and 12-hour waits.
We must guard against imposing a more burdensome system of assessment for trusts
“The health secretary has hinted at a new approach to monitoring and measuring performance in A&E – this is potentially helpful if it improves understanding of how the NHS is coping with these growing pressures. But we must guard against imposing a more burdensome system of assessment for trusts.
“We welcome the health secretary’s appeal for an honest discussion with the public about the purpose of A&E. He is right that A&E services should be focused on those with the most urgent care needs. But patients are sometimes turning to A&E because other local health and social care services are not available to them. Lack of capacity in social care and in GP services need to be considered alongside pressures on our A&E departments. We therefore feel the debate should go further, recognising the clear gap between what the NHS is being asked to deliver and the funding available. Despite the commitment and hard work of frontline staff the NHS can no longer meet all the existing priorities and performance standards.”
We welcome the health secretary’s appeal for an honest discussion with the public about the purpose of A&E
NHS Providers has today published a briefing which aims to set out the facts on A&E performance levels without underplaying the very real current pressures.