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There is no shadow of a doubt that the NHS is under tremendous pressure that is showing no sign of letting up any time soon – especially with the winter months now looming.
I recently attended the 2017 NHS Health and Care innovation Expo in Manchester, where NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the service was now better prepared for the winter months than last year – which was the worst on record. But he warned that there is still ‘a great deal of work to be done’.
So it would seem. A poll by NHS Confederation released in October found that 90% of health and care leaders have said they are ‘concerned’ about their organisation’s ability to cope with demand this winter.
The survey of 131 leaders also found that 62% were ‘extremely concerned’ about the winter pressures ahead.
So my question is: how will the workforce cope with all of this pressure?
The lack of resources to prepare the NHS fully for the winter months puts even more strain on primary care, mental health and social care. Healthcare professionals in the NHS work hard, day in day out, to provide a service that will help and change patients’ lives. A lack of funding in the system and added winter pressures will only place more stress on the workforce.
But there are positive steps we can take. We can learn from trusts and hospitals that did not cope well last winter, and take measures to prevent the same mistakes happening again. We can share ideas about what has been tried and tested, what’s worked and what hasn’t.
We need support, teamwork, and learning so that the workforce doesn’t feel the strain through what many health leaders are predicting to be the worst winter in history.
By working together in tough times we have the power to overcome adversity and be stronger and wiser for next winter. In theory, it’s still possible. But fundamentally, we can’t do it on our own.
We need a stronger support unit. To succeed, we need a government that will step up and listen to the problems we face. We need the health minister to deliver the promises he has made to provide patients with better care and the workforce with more hope for the future. Put simply, we need more funding to put all of this into action.
It’s evident that the problems keep repeating. Every winter crisis the NHS suffers and tells the same old story.
In this issue of Healthcare Leader, we have a feature on the Daily Mile project – how schools, working with public health experts and CCGs, have tackled obesity by incorporating exercise into the daily timetable. Turn to page 32 to read more.
Our reporter Carolyn Wickware asks whether STPs are getting good value from management consultancy firms – see page 30.
The main interview is with Dr Nav Chana, chair of the National Association of Primary Care. Turn to page 14 to find out what the Primary Care Home model is, and how it’s helping people in practices, as well as social, community and acute care, to think differently about the way they work.
Angela Sharda is deputy editor of Healthcare Leader