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RCEM welcomes the new Secretary of State for Health and Social care, warning demand management is not the answer to UEC crisis

27 October 2022

Responding to the appointment of Steve Barclay MP as the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Dr Adrian Boyle, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“We welcome Steve Barclay back to the role of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Since his departure from and subsequent return to post, the crisis in Urgent and Emergency Care has continued to worsen as winter closes in. The Emergency Care system is already failing in its central function; there is deep concern about how much worse things can get for patients and staff. The Royal College is keen to be part of the solution.

“Over the summer the incoming Secretary of State for Health and Social care was right to recognise the severe strain and pressure on the ambulance services and work to tackle them. However, he must understand that the extreme pressure on ambulance services along with the dangerous crowding and extremely long waits in Emergency Departments reflect system-wide issues. Demand management of the front door of the health service is not the answer to the crisis in Urgent and Emergency Care.

“NHS services are inextricably linked to social care. The inability to discharge patients from hospital in a timely way is causing exit block. The difficulties in discharging patients are a consequence of a lack of social care. Many patients reside in hospital long after they are medically fit to be discharged. Building and retaining the social care workforce is absolutely critical to improving flow and reducing ambulance call-out delays, handover delays, and long waits in Emergency Departments. This must be the priority for the Health and Social Care Secretary.

“Staff are burned out and exhausted, exit block in hospitals is leading to many patients facing dangerously long waits – that we know are associated with harm and even death. Patients are concerned and distressed, while staff face moral injury daily. With a shortfall of beds and a shortfall of over 132,000 NHS staff, the service is struggling to deliver adequate care. We urge the Secretary of State to deliver the long-term fully funded NHS workforce plan that this government pledged to deliver and to open 13,000 beds.”

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