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RCEM responds to Public Accounts Committee report

17 March 2022

Responding to the Public Accounts Committee report, in which The Royal College of Emergency Medicine is referenced, Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“We support the focus on elective care recovery, some patients have waited an extraordinary amount of time before receiving treatment, others have yet to even receive treatment after two years. The elective care delivery plan is welcome, but it is ambitious and isolationist and does address the system-wide crisis. You cannot fix one part of a broken system without addressing critical problems elsewhere. Elective care and Urgent and Emergency Care are inextricably linked.

“As we submitted in evidence, the derailment of elective care is not a unique consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, previous winters where the emergency care pathway has faced exceptional pressures led to the compromise and pausing of elective care – to the detriment of these patients. What has driven this is the lack of hospital capacity in the system, which remains short of around 10,000 beds across the United Kingdom.

“Elective care continues to be regularly compromised; our Winter Flow Project has recorded 35,746 elective cancellations since the first week of October 2021 (up to the first week of March 2022).

“For the successful implementation of the elective care delivery plan, it is imperative that the crisis in Urgent and Emergency Care (UEC) is addressed; we must see the publication of a meaningful UEC recovery plan. Without any plan for UEC, elective care will likely continue to suffer, and patients will continue to face long waiting times and experience harm in Emergency Departments.”

The Public Accounts Committee also recommend that “NHSE&I should publish its assessment of how the size of the NHS workforce will change over the next three years…”

Dr Henderson said:

“We welcome this recommendation by the Public Accounts Committee. In Emergency Medicine we know that we have a shortfall of between 2,000-2,500 Emergency Medicine Consultants across the United Kingdom, as well as widespread shortages of Emergency Medicine trainees, junior doctors, SAS doctors, and vital Emergency Medicine nurses.

“Transparency of workforce levels will reveal the level of recruitment required across all grades and specialties. The government must recognise the urgent need for and commit to publishing a fully funded workforce plan for the NHS, only then will the entire health service be able to begin a successful recovery from the pandemic.”

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