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THE NHS is facing a “tough winter” with “really significant pressures” as patients continue to wait for treatments, the head of the health service warned today.
NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said that she expects the backlog of patients will “get worse before it gets better” and that caring for half a million Covid-19 patients as well as a surge in demand for emergency care has contributed to pressures.
She warned that there are thousands of patients stuck in hospital because they are waiting for social care support, which may hamper tackling the record waiting list.
Ms Pritchard said that it would be unfair to ask already stretched staff to “continue to work at this same level of intensity forever.”
She called for more support for staff and more recruitment of nurses, doctors and other workers.
GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said that Ms Pritchard was not wrong, adding that health workers “are on the brink.”
She told the Star: “After their Herculean efforts during the pandemic, they are now dealing with a completely unmanageable workload, crushing staffing crisis and rocketing mental health issues among their colleagues.
“We desperately need a proper pay rise for NHS workers — rather than the pay cut they’ve been offered.
“A 15 per cent rise that makes up for 10 years of cuts they’ve suffered under the Conservatives.
“That’s how you’ll alleviate staffing pressures and stop the winter crisis becoming a catastrophe.”
Keep Our NHS Public co-chairman Dr John Puntis said that while the head of the NHS and many others working in the service recognise the huge pressures, the government still refuses to acknowledge there is a crisis.
He said: “As waiting lists grow and patients die because ambulances cannot transfer them into A&E, things can only get worse with winter respiratory viruses adding to the misery.
“This situation demands serious workforce planning and adequate funding, far in excess of the paltry amounts offered so far.
“We need to fight for a new vision of the NHS and social care as publicly funded services that have the means to look after us all.
“There is no end in sight to unfairness towards both staff and patients until this happens.”
UNISON deputy head of health Helga Pile said: “The pandemic and chronic staff shortages have left NHS employees stressed and burnt out. There’s only so much they can take.
“With the treatment backlog at record levels, winter pressures looming and the possibility of further Covid surges, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
“Ministers must do more to solve the workforce crisis for good. A key part of that is to give the above-inflation pay rise staff more than deserve. This would lift morale and make the NHS a more attractive career choice.”
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