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RCEM has called on Government to make additional funding available to increase bed numbers

14 November 2023

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has called on the Government to make additional funding available urgently as NHS leaders admit they may not be able to increase winter bed capacity simply because they do not have enough money.

RCEM President Dr Adrian Boyle has urged the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt MP, to announce more funding for the health service this winter at next week’s Autumn budget to ensure patient safety is not compromised because of a lack of funding.

Dr Boyle’s comment come after Sir Julian Hartley, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, warned in an interview this morning (14 November 2023) that Trusts were facing difficult choices as they were having to meet a significant proportion of the cost of the industrial action which has been taking place.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme Sir Julian Hartley confirmed there is a risk that there will be fewer winter beds available this year because of the difficult choices having to be made.

Dr Adrian Boyle, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“This warning from Sir Julian cannot go unheeded by the Government. Trusts are being asked to manage winter, reduce waiting lists and balance the books. Existing budgets are also being used to cover the cost of industrial action. There just isn’t enough money to do it all – and winter bed capacity cannot be the thing that dops off the list.

“To help avoid another winter crisis we have to increase bed capacity and improve the ability to discharge people when they are well enough. But if bed numbers are cut then we will be in the same – or worse position – and patient safety will once again be put  at risk.

“In January, Government pledged to deliver 5,000 more beds, but since October 2022 we have gained just 21 more beds. And now we have the head of the body which represents Trusts warning that they are struggling to afford to add more.

“The Government next week presents its Autumn budget, and we urge the Chancellor and our new Health Secretary to act decisively and put patients first by providing the additional funding so desperately needed.”

Bed losses result in an increase in the number of patients facing longer delays accessing care, with the most recent data showing more than 150,000 patients waited 12-hours or more in A&E in October.

Sir Julian’s concerns about the months ahead were echoed by the Chief Executive of NHS England Amanda Prichard who this morning gave evidence to parliament’s Health Committee acknowledging that we are “once again facing a really challenging winter”.

It comes as NHS Providers publishes its State of Providers report today (14 November 2023) which found:

  • More than nine in 10 trust leaders (95%) said they were extremely or moderately concerned about the impact of seasonal pressures over winter on their trust and local area. The most common reason for concerns related to industrial action.
  • Eight in 10 trust leaders (80%) strongly agreed or agreed that winter 23/24 will be tougher than 22/23.
  • Most trust leaders were extremely or moderately concerned about the current level of burnout (84%) and morale (83%) across the workforce.
  • Nearly nine in 10 trust leaders (89%) were very worried or worried about whether sufficient national investment is being made in social care.

And follows the Prime Minister’s cabinet reshuffle yesterday which saw Victoria Atkins MP appointed as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, replacing Steve Barclay MP.

Commenting in the change Dr Boyle said: “RCEM thanks Steve Barclay MP for his work as Health and Social Care Secretary, particularly for acting on our calls for 12-hour A&E data from arrival data to routinely be published and we wish him all the best in his new role.

“We welcome Ms Atkins and look forward to meeting with her shortly and to building a constructive relationship with her for the benefit of our members and patients. As has been clearly indicated, winter will be extremely challenging, and we need to work together to  #ResuscitateEmergencyCare. There is much to do.”

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