Lib Dems call for government to declare NHS “major incident”

Over the New Year, Lib Dem MPs have been attacking the government’s record on our crisis ridden NHS. Government ministers are conspicuous by their absence and have not yet responded, leaving any comment to civil servants.

Today’s Times, Guardian the Independent and other media report that people are resorting to DIY medical treatments after failing to get face-to-face appointments with GPs. Some go to A&E instead. But up to 500 people a week are dying due to A&E delays according to the Royal College of Emergency Medicine. Several NHS trusts have declared critical incidents. Ambulance staff in some trusts have been urged to conserve oxygen supplies due to a surge in demand.

The British Medical Association said:

The current situation in the NHS is intolerable and unsustainable, both for our patients and the hardworking staff desperately trying to keep up with incredibly high levels of demand.

The BMA has repeatedly invited the government to sit down and talk about the pressures on our health service, but their silence is deafening. It is disingenuous for the prime minister to talk about ‘backing the NHS’ in his new year message, when his own health secretary is failing to discuss how this crisis can be fixed.”

Daisy Cooper, Lib Dem health spokesperson said:

This is a life or death situation for huge numbers of patients. The NHS is collapsing in front of our eyes whilst the Prime Minister and Health Secretary are nowhere to be seen. This is a national crisis and the country will never forgive the Government if they refuse to recall Parliament whilst hundreds of people die in parked ambulances or hospital corridors.

Nobody should lose a loved one because the Government was asleep on the job.

Daisy Cooper continued:

NHS paramedics, nurses and doctors are this country’s heroes but they have been left high and dry by the Government. They need help right now before more people die.

I am calling for Parliament to return without delay. The Prime Minister must declare a major incident now to put the NHS back on a pandemic-style footing amid soaring numbers of deaths.

It is known that some people in need of medical care go to A&E because they cannot get local treatment. Some resort to DIY treatment. Of those that who said they have tried but couldn’t get a face-to-face GP appointment in their local area in the last 12 months, one in four (24%) self-prescribed medication online or at a pharmacy without GP advice, one in five (19%) went to A&E, whilst three in ten (31%) gave up all together on securing an appointment.

Ed Davey said:

This is a national scandal. Face-to-face GP appointments have become almost extinct in some areas of the country. We now have the devastating situation where people are left treating themselves or even self-prescribing medication because they can’t see their local GP.  The British public pay their fair share to the NHS, but years of Government mismanagement and neglect of local health services has left millions unable to see their GP.

Liberal Democrats would guarantee people a right to a GP appointment within one week so people can get the care they deserve. This would reduce pressure on our hospitals and paramedics, saving crucial time and money elsewhere in the NHS.

The Lib Dem five point Winter Plan

  1. Launch a campaign to retain, recruit and train paramedics and other ambulance service staff. Like all health and care services, it needs to be properly staffed.
  2. Bring forward a fully funded programme to get people who are medically well enough discharged from hospital and set up with appropriate social care and support. This will allow people to leave hospital sooner and make more space available for new arrivals.
  3. The Government’s current attempt at this through the Adult Social Care Discharge Fund is not good enough, as the funds will come from existing NHS budgets putting even more pressure on other services. It will also not be deployed in full until January next year.
  4. In addition to getting people out of hospital so that they get care in a more comfortable setting, the number of beds in hospitals needs to be increased to end excessive handover delays for ambulances, caused by a lack of bed capacity. Any new beds must come with increases in staff to care for those extra patients.
  5. Expand mental health support services to get people the appropriate care they need and reduce the number of call outs for ambulances for mental health reasons. Learning from hospitals that have set up ‘emergency mental health departments’, will not only to get people more appropriate care but relieve pressure on A&Es and ambulances.
  6. Pass Daisy Cooper MP’s Ambulance Waiting Times Bill into law that would require accessible, localised reports of ambulance response times to be published. This would ensure that ‘hot spots’ with some of the longest waiting times can be identified routinely. 12 hour waits at A&E should also be published from arrival at hospital rather than the ‘decision to admit’ as is current practice, so that the true scale of the problem is clear for all to see.

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary in print, on air or online.

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14 Comments

  • John Barrett 2nd Jan '23 - 6:21pm

    “up to 500 people a week are dying due to A&E delays according to the Royal College of Emergency Medicine”

    Does this mean that more people are being killed by delays in the NHS each week, than by the Russians in Ukraine?

  • James Fowler 2nd Jan '23 - 6:27pm

    What will declaring a ‘Major Incident’ actually do to help the NHS?

  • Andy Boddington 3rd Jan '23 - 7:08am

    Trigger emergency resources and allow the trusts to concentrate only on acute patients, for example by delaying elective treatment. That is hardly desirable but neither is dying in the back of an ambulance.

  • Jenny Barnes 3rd Jan '23 - 9:20am

    “for example by delaying elective treatment.” let them go private .

  • Thanks, Newshound!
    To Jenny’s point in response to Andy’s elective treatment observation, my experience indicates the NHS needs to provide a balance of services, so let’s draw a line between cosmetic procedures and surgery like my 2013 ligament replacement surgery, neither of which is acute or life-saving, nor should detract from the queues of ambulances in which patients are dying, if indeed they get picked up before dying at home while government ministers are neglecting their duties to properly reduce the NHS.

  • George Thomas 3rd Jan '23 - 10:39am

    Things are incredibly difficult at the moment and all I can say is that it took 12+ years to get NHS into this state and it’s likely to take 12+ years to get it back. This post looks at short-term emergency though.

  • Barry Lofty 3rd Jan '23 - 10:41am

    I feel great sorrow over the mess that our once renowned NHS finds itself in , whether it is lack of investment, poor management or one of many other causes it will be a really sad day for future generations if what we are witnessing at the moment is the beginning of the end for this wonderful service? Having said that it was private insurance that came to the rescue of a family member almost a year ago and we are very thankful for that!

  • Mel Borthwaite 3rd Jan '23 - 10:48am

    My sister is a nurse and explains to me that there are three causes of delayed discharge – councils not having completed care assessments and put support provision in place, care homes wanting hospitals to look after certain people who may be very vulnerable or needy, families who do not consent to their relative being transferred to a private care home as they don’t wish their inheritance to be spent on care home fees. In each case, there is a financial incentive working to keep patients in hospitals who should be out of hospital. Therefore, perhaps the government needs to change the financial incentives to ensure that patients who are ready to be discharged are discharged without delay. This could be done by hospitals charging a daily fee for any patient staying in hospital beyond when they are ready to be discharged with that fee being charged to the appropriate Council if they are responsible for not have completed a care assessment or put a care package in place, charged to the care home if they are unwilling to have one of their residents returned, or charged to the family if they are blocking their relative being transferred to a care home. Radical, controversial perhaps, but may help address this crisis situation.

  • CJ WILLIAMS 3rd Jan '23 - 1:22pm

    Mel Borthwaite

    Good thinking Batman.

  • Jenny Barnes 3rd Jan '23 - 4:29pm

    Mel B. ” This could be done by hospitals charging a daily fee for any patient staying in hospital beyond when they are ready to be discharged..”
    Excellent idea. Set the fee to roughly double the cost of private care in the area, they’ll be out in no time. Seems entirely reasonable that the NHS should charge for providing residential care, after all, that’s not what it’s for.

  • Jenny Barnes 3rd Jan '23 - 4:29pm

    Let’s make it LD policy!

  • “This could be done by hospitals charging a daily fee for any patient staying in hospital beyond when they are ready to be discharged with that fee being charged to the appropriate Council if they are responsible for not have completed a care assessment or put a care package in place, charged to the care home if they are unwilling to have one of their residents returned, or charged to the family if they are blocking their relative being transferred to a care home”.

    As a former Cabinet Member for Social Care (Lib Dem), I’m afraid this comment reveals a lack of knowledge of how local government is, and has been, financed over certainly the last twelve years. The following links may provide some enlightenment :

    A decade of austerity | Centre for Cities
    https://www.centreforcities.org › cities-outlook-2019
    28 Jan 2019 — The main driver of the cuts to local government spending has been cuts to central government grant. How these cuts have been implemented has …

    Local government funding in England : The Institute for Government
    https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk › explainers
    Metropolitan districts – primarily local authorities in cities – and London local authorities have borne the biggest reductions in spending power since 2010.

    How spending cuts have decimated public services since … https://www.bigissue.com › news › politics › spending…
    17 Nov 2022 — Councils faced a £15bn real terms reduction to core government funding between 2010 and 2020, from £41bn to £26bn, the Institute for Government .

  • Mel raises good points, but as Martin says, the idea of charging individuals, or even councils would be asking for trouble. Certainly in the current way health and social services are structured and funded.

    This would be one of the benefits of integrating health and social care budgets and ensuring that councils are properly funded and are incentivised to spend on social care and schemes that keep people out of hospitals. My own local council gave our home safety officer early retirement, then deleted the post.

    Flu and COVID admissions are understandably getting all of the attention, but how many people are in hospital because they had a preventable fall in the home, or because their pavements weren’t gritted and they needed to go to the shops? Either waiting for surgery, or waiting to go home? A neighbour broke his leg slipping on an icy pavement last year, waited over a fortnight for an operation because they didn’t have enough pins, and caught COVID in the process, further delaying his discharge.

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