An emerging, “terrible” divide between what patients expect and the services nurses and doctors are able to provide threatens to “unravel the NHS from the bottom upwards”, an organisation representing primary care groups has warned.
Bureaucratic and financial pressures are beginning to cause a “serious” fracture between patient demands and what clinicians can do for them, claimed NHS Alliance chair Michael Dixon.
“We must learn once again to allow all our professionals to be professionals. Not zombies. Not chickens dancing to the latest target”
Speaking today at the NHS Alliance’s conference Breaking Boundaries and Beyond, Dr Dixon said he believed this “ever-present” danger had been partly addressed following chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement yesterday, in which he announced an extra annual £2bn for the NHS from next year.
However, Dr Dixon warned delegates that the health sector must still “act quickly” to avoid this collapse of the NHS on the frontline.
He said: “The combined effect of bureaucratic and financial pressures is beginning to create a terrible divide between what frontline clinicians feel able to deliver and what patients have been led to expect.
“I do think we are very dangerously close to the brink. I’ve never seen this happen at the frontline before… It’s something we must avoid,” added Dr Dixon.
In his speech to delegates, he also called for an end to “heroics” in primary care, in which he claimed some clinicians were now working up to 14-hour days.
“It threatens our ability to provide safe and consistent patient care, it affects our family lives, it affects morale and job satisfaction. We became clinicians in order to provide care, to diagnose and heal – not to push paper around late into the night,” said Dr Dixon.
To address these problems, he pointed to NHS England’s Five Year Forward View and its focus on integration and creating additional resources for out of hospital care.
In addition, he called for earmarked funding for training practice nurses, community nurses and GPs “to get things moving at scale and at speed”.
“We must learn once again to allow all our professionals to be professionals. Not zombies. Not chickens dancing to the latest target or financial incentive,” he said. “Then we need to train a sufficient primary care workforce to meet the opportunities for extended primary care.”
New relationships between health professionals in primary and secondary settings and with their patients are also required, he said, adding that delegates should not focus entirely on budgets for the new models of care being proposed for the future.
“A love for what you do, time to deliver both care and compassion, time to listen, time to be kind, time to discover a new relationship with your patients. These are what matter most, what have always mattered most and which will continue to matter most in the kind of NHS that we will create,” said Dr Dixon.