A third of NHS leaders fear it will take between three and five years to clear the Covid backlog, a poll shows.
A survey of trust leaders conducted by NHS Providers has revealed widespread concerns about access to care.
With waiting lists already at record highs, some 96 percent of bosses said demand is rising significantly, while mental health, emergency care and cancer services dominate their concerns.
Two-thirds said they fear backlogs will exacerbate health inequalities, while 87 percent said patients have more complex needs now than before the pandemic.
Two-thirds said they feared that backlogs will exacerbate health inequalities, while 87 percent said patients now have more complex needs than before the pandemic (stock photo)
The survey, which was sent to 170 bosses at 199 trusts, comes as NHS data published today is expected to show the highest waiting list ever in England.
The number of people waiting for hospital treatment reached 5.6 million in July.
Saffron Cordery, deputy director of NHS Providers, said the NHS is ‘fighting fires on multiple fronts’ and the ‘key intervention’ needed is more staff
Saffron Cordery, deputy director of NHS Providers, said the NHS is “fighting fires on multiple fronts” and that the “key intervention” needed is more staff.
Ms Cordery said: “Our research reveals the enormity of the challenge trusts now face.
Confidence leaders are fighting fires on multiple fronts as they try to catch up with care backlogs, address increased demand for emergency care, treat patients with Covid-19 and prepare for what is likely to be the most challenging winter yet for the NHS is becoming.
‘In a few weeks we will have our first winter in which both flu and Covid are in circulation.
“NHS staff are doing everything they can to reduce the care backlog, but the reality on the front lines is that even a small increase in flu, Covid-19 admissions or emergency care will really put pressure on the service.”
Waiting lists already at an all-time high, and about 96 percent of bosses said demand is rising significantly, with mental health, emergency and emergency care and cancer services dominating their concerns (stock photo)
She said trusts worked with partners across the health and care system “to manage waiting lists to prioritize the sickest patients” but that the key intervention NHS leaders need is new staff.
“We must not forget that the service entered the pandemic with more than 100,000 vacancies,” she said.
“We need a fully budgeted and funded multi-year personnel plan sooner rather than later.”
The new face-to-face revolution: Sajid Javid launches overhaul in GP access so all patients can see a doctor in person…with rankings and ‘hit squads’ for those who fail
ThroughDaniel Martinand Jason Grovesand Shaun Wooller for the Daily Mail
Sajid Javid last night launched a revolution in GP access designed to ensure all patients can see a doctor in person.
GPs will be offered an additional £250m to improve access to patients but will be named in new rankings and shamed if they fail to deliver.
The nine point plan is a big win for the Daily Mail’s Let’s See GPs Face to Face campaign.
Health Secretary Javid, Boris Johnson and new NHS chief Amanda Pritchard all paid tribute to the Mail for highlighting the devastating decline in the number of patients their doctor can see in person.
Under the new proposals, patients will have the right to demand a personal appointment with their GP.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has launched a revolution in GP access designed to ensure all patients can see a doctor in person. Pictured: Mr Javid at a pharmacy in Westminster yesterday
GPs are told that they may only refuse a plea for a personal consultation if there are good clinical reasons for doing so.
The NHS England ‘Plan for GPs and Patients’ is giving practices an additional £250million to hire more staff so patients can have an appointment on the day they request it. This could include extending opening hours.
But they won’t be able to access the extra money if too many of their consultations are over the phone or online.
New ‘transparency’ rules will also publish data on the level of service offered by individual GP practices, including the level of access for patients seeking a personal appointment.
Mr Javid confirmed GPs will receive £250m in funding to improve access to patients
Whitehall sources acknowledged that the data would allow the creation of local and national rankings, with the worst performers named and shamed in the media.
Chemists will prescribe additional drugs and treat a wider range of diseases to free up GPs
Pharmacists will become the first point of contact for most minor illnesses under plans being considered by Sajid Javid to free up GPs to treat more serious cases.
The Health Secretary’s battle plan for improving access to primary care physicians includes options to give local chemists more powers to treat a wide variety of minor complaints.
This will likely include giving them the power to prescribe some drugs that are currently reserved solely for physicians.
A health source said Mr Javid wanted to see a ‘significantly’ bigger role for pharmacists, adding: ‘He is looking at a rapid expansion of the role they play.
‘He is curious if they can do more in the area of prescribing.
‘It’s about distributing the workload and freeing up GPs for more complex cases.’
The source said the health secretary was investigating Scotland’s ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme, which will allow pharmacies to treat a wide range of common ailments, from earaches and sore throats to hay fever and cystitis.
The ministers hope that the scheme will make it easier for patients with mild conditions to receive faster treatment and free up GPs.
Today, Mr Javid wrote in the Mail: ‘Another way we are going to ensure more time is spent on patients is by spreading the workload.
“I want every practice to use the NHS Community Pharmacy Consultation service so that our brilliant community pharmacists can do more in terms of prescribing.
‘I am asking my department to work with the NHS and look at a ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme for England so that pharmacists can provide treatment for specific conditions such as sore throats, without patients having to see their GP, building on pilot programs in England and much as they already do in Scotland.’
GP practices that fail to improve access for patients will face direct intervention from teams of problem solvers from the NHS.
To help doctors improve their service, bureaucracy will be reduced to give GPs more time to see patients in person – and phone systems will be upgraded to make it easier to make an appointment.
Meanwhile, pharmacists will be given more powers to treat a wide variety of minor complaints to relieve the pressure.
The Department of Health will reduce the administrative burden on GPs by reforming who can provide medical evidence and certificates such as fit notes and DVLA checks, freeing up time for more appointments.
And officials will confirm today that GP surgeries can scrap the two-meter social distancing rule imposed during the pandemic, drastically reducing the number in waiting rooms.
Last night, however, there were signs that the plans would lead to feuds with doctors’ unions and some primary care physicians.
dr. Richard Vautrey, chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said the proposals would make it more difficult to book appointments and the government was “out of touch”.
He said it was disappointing to see ‘there was no end in sight to the preoccupation with personal appointments’ – and demanded an end to ‘targeted, result-based payments’.
Professor Martin Marshall, president of the Royal College of GPs, said there was ‘nothing to address the long-standing pressure on the workforce facing general practice’.
But he cautiously welcomed plans to cut red tape. “GPs go into medicine to care for patients, but they spend a significant amount of their time checking off and filling out forms,” he said.
‘This bureaucracy has consequences for the workload in the general practice, which has become increasingly ‘impossible’ and leads to many GPs, and other team members, burning out or leaving the profession.
Last night, the Prime Minister praised the Mail for highlighting the collapse of personal appointments over the past two years.
Mr Johnson said: ‘The Mail’s campaign on the subject has shown how important it is for everyone to have the choice and the opportunity to see their GP in person, and this plan will lead to more appointments with more surgeries.’ Writing for the Mail, Mr Javid said he was determined to get the NHS ‘closer to pre-pandemic levels of personal appointments’.
Ms Pritchard thanked the Mail for acting as ‘a strong voice for patients’, adding that another effort would also be made to tackle GP abuse.
The nine-point plan came when a YouGov survey found that two-thirds of people prefer an in-person appointment.