NHS crisis: doctors urge Rishi Sunak to recall MPs to Parliament as they warn 500 patients dying a week

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Doctors have warned that the current NHS crisis is risking patients’ lives.

NHS doctors have warned that up to 500 people are dying every week as a result of delayed care as they urge Rishi Sunak to call an emergency meeting to deal with the crisis.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) has demanded MPs return to Parliament for an emergency meeting on the state of the NHS. Doctors have told of staff shortages, chaotic A&E departments, and 12 hour plus waiting times - resulting in substandard conditions for patients, risking lives, and leading to unnecessary deaths.

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MPs are currently on Christmas recess until 9 January, which the DAUK says is “delaying the essential work needed to fix the crisis.” The organisation has therefore urged parties to put election-based strategy aside and instead focus on what must be done to “save lives”.

Testimonies from “veteran” NHS staff have captured the desperate nature of the situation. An A&E doctor told of how patients are being “kicked out” of cubicle spaces so a more critical patient can take their place - something they did recently just so “a patient could die anywhere other than a corridor”.

Elsewhere, an Intensive Care Registrar said he witnessed a patient “collapse” in the waiting room after being there for eight hours. “If the waiting time had been less, he’d have probably survived,” they said.

Doctors have urged Rishi Sunak to recall Parliament for an emergency meeting on the NHS crisis. Credit: Mark Hall / NationalWorldDoctors have urged Rishi Sunak to recall Parliament for an emergency meeting on the NHS crisis. Credit: Mark Hall / NationalWorld
Doctors have urged Rishi Sunak to recall Parliament for an emergency meeting on the NHS crisis. Credit: Mark Hall / NationalWorld | Mark Hall / NationalWorld

Others have said that consultations are taking place in corridors due to lack of staff and space, while GPs have been driving patients to hospitals due to lack of ambulances.

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There is even concern about oxygen supply. A doctor explained: “A GP drove a patient in with oxygen saturation of 80% whilst giving them spaced salbutamol via an inhaler as there were no ambulances. They were told there is no O2 for them on arrival either. We have run out of portable O2 in the emergency department as so many patients are on O2 in corridors.”

Doctors say winter is always a challenge, but this is “worse than any they have seen before.”

The DAUK has highlighted a number of actions it believes will help solve the staffing crisis. These include bringing in more healthcare professionals from the EU, increasing training numbers for senior doctors, scrapping the immigration surcharge for those who come to the UK to work in the NHS, and giving full maintenance loans to medical students.

The organisation has also urged the government to “address the sustained real terms cuts to NHS junior doctors’ pay” - something which has led to a series of strikes across the healthcare industry, from nurses to paramedics.

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London Ambulances outside The Royal London Hospital on January 2, 2023 in London, England. NHS A&E departments are facing extreme pressures this winter. Credit: Getty ImagesLondon Ambulances outside The Royal London Hospital on January 2, 2023 in London, England. NHS A&E departments are facing extreme pressures this winter. Credit: Getty Images
London Ambulances outside The Royal London Hospital on January 2, 2023 in London, England. NHS A&E departments are facing extreme pressures this winter. Credit: Getty Images | Getty Images

In terms of addressing the NHS crisis as a whole, the DAUK suggests:

  • Increasing NHS funding 
  • Increasing social care funding to reduce discharge delays
  • Investing in primary care e.g. GPs
  • Ending hospital parking charges
  • Monitoring suicides of healthcare professionals
  • Addressing the NHS “blame culture”
  • Addressing the “pensions tax crisis”
  • Establishing an All-Party Parliamentary Group to work towards fixing the NHS crisis

Dr Matt Kneale, co-chair of DAUK and a junior doctor in the north-west of England, commented: “Consecutive governments have done less than the bare minimum and the NHS has been running on fumes. It is no longer possible for the goodwill of NHS workers to be abused to prop up a failed system.

“It is frankly of little surprise that concurrent crises have led to record levels of burnout amongst staff, and a capacity crisis on the frontlines of emergency departments, general practice, and ambulance services.”

 A general view of the Royal Hampshire County Hospital on January 03, 2023 in Winchester, England, as hospitals across Hampshire reinstate their ‘critical incident’ status. Credit: Getty Images A general view of the Royal Hampshire County Hospital on January 03, 2023 in Winchester, England, as hospitals across Hampshire reinstate their ‘critical incident’ status. Credit: Getty Images
A general view of the Royal Hampshire County Hospital on January 03, 2023 in Winchester, England, as hospitals across Hampshire reinstate their ‘critical incident’ status. Credit: Getty Images | Getty Images

Dr Ellen Welch, co-chair of DAUK and a GP in Cumbria, added: “Enough is enough. Loved ones are suffering due to systemic failures and staff are crying out for help. The government needs to recognise how valuable NHS staff are and do everything within their power to invest in them.

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“The workforce continues to decline as burnout staff realise the job is breaking them – it is within the power of this government to invest in the NHS to make it a better place. Focus on the staff and they will stick around to look after the patients.”

The government has thus far refused to offer nurses the pay rise they are demanding, saying that it is unaffordable amidst the country’s cost of living crisis. Health Secretary Steve Barclay also recently blamed the winter NHS crisis on high cases of flu, COVID and fears about Strep A, while the Prime Minister said he is “confident” the NHS has the funding to cope with the increasingly dire situation.

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