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RCEM response to Health Foundation polling on public views of NHS

3 February 2022

Responding to the Health Foundation’s report ‘Public perceptions of the NHS and social care: performance, policy and expectations, Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“The polling carried out by the Health Foundation is welcome. Sadly, it comes as no surprise that the public are negative and pessimistic about the state of the NHS. The public have pinpointed the top priorities for the NHS: addressing the pressure on or workload of NHS staff; increasing the number of staff in the NHS; and improving waiting times for routine services. At the same time nearly 60% of the public are likely to think that waiting times at A&Es will get worse over the next 12 months.

“The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has long been calling for an increase in staff in Emergency Medicine. The burden of work on Emergency Medicine staff has been unsustainable for too long. Our report from July 2021 Retain, Recruit, Recover found that nearly two thirds of staff experienced burnout during the second wave of the pandemic, and nearly two thirds of staff suffered stress and exhaustion. The report also found that in the next two years half of all Emergency Medicine staff were considering reducing their working hours and one quarter of EM staff were considering a career break or sabbatical.

“Since July there have been more waves of unprecedented pressure on the urgent and emergency care system, and in December 2021 and January 2022 this was met with vast numbers of staff absences related to covid – increasing the workload of working staff and increasing waiting times resulting in lower quality care.

“In April 2021 the Royal College of Physicians called for the number of medical school places to be doubled, and in October 2021 the Medical Schools Council and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges called for the expansion of medical school numbers in the UK. The Royal College supported both calls, highlighting the need for the recruitment of Emergency Medicine staff at all grades.

“The government must listen to health leaders, Medical Colleges and Royal Colleges and the public and commit to publishing a long-term workforce plan for the NHS. Staff are burned out and overwhelmed, performance across the health service has rapidly declined in the past six months, we must see recognition of the severity of the workforce crisis and see urgent action taken to address it.”

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