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Urgent concerted effort required to tackle the emergency care crisis

29 March 2023

News that public satisfaction levels with the NHS and Accident and Emergency Services have fallen further is disheartening, but not at all surprising.

Responding to the latest findings of the annual British Social Attitudes Survey on public satisfaction with the NHS and social care services, RCEM President Dr Adrian Boyle, said:

“The public are being a dished up a disservice and they know it. Just yesterday [Tuesday] we held an emergency care summit at the House of Lords to highlight further the crisis facing the emergency care system, which is unacceptable and requires immediate and sustained political attention.

“We have long been saying that we need long term action in order to ensure the NHS is equipped to provide timely care to all patients who need emergency care. Emergency medicine staff continue to work tirelessly for patients, despite working in extremely challenging circumstances. They are frustrated by inefficiencies within the system and recent interventions by the Government have not been successful in tackling the root causes of the current crisis. Without action to tackle the severe mismatch between capacity and demand across the health and social care service, the NHS will not be able to provide responsive and safe emergency care to patients and that puts lives at risk.”

Various MPs from all parties were able to question health and social care experts on the extreme challenges facing emergency medicine at the summit yesterday, in a call by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine to ensure that effective strategies, backed by funding, are put in place to tackle the crisis.

“It requires concerted effort and a systemwide approach to tackle the crisis: more clinical staff, an expansion of staffed hospital beds, and reform of social care. The findings of this recent report reinforce all that we have been calling for,” said Dr Boyle.

The findings are part of the 2022 British Social Attitudes Survey on public satisfaction with the NHS and social care services, conducted by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), and supported by the Nuffield Trust and the King’s Fund. Field work was undertaken in autumn last year and while the public remain supportive of the three core principles of NHS (Free at the point of access; available to all and tax funded), key findings included:

  • Overall satisfaction with NHS at 29% – lowest on record since the inception of the survey (40 years)
  • Satisfaction levels with A&E services – down from 39% in 2021 to 30% satisfaction in 2022.

Responders said that priorities should be:

  • Accessibility of GPs / GP appointments
  • Increase in staffing within NHS
  • Reduced wait times for planned procedures, and reduced wait times for A&E
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