Acute care services across England are struggling to meet increasing demand and the complexity of patients’ conditions, a new report has said.
The report by The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) found that standards were falling in hospitals due to an increase in emergency admissions, the treatment of elderly patients with a variety of conditions and a reduction in the amount of beds.
Professor Tim Evans, from the RCP, said the evidence was “very distressing” and the Government must make “drastic changes” to improve standards of acute care.
The survey of RCP fellows found that doctors were most concerned about staff shortages, the workload in acute medicine, a lack of continuity of care, and the impact of NHS efficiency savings.
Doctors also raised concerns about how older patients were transferred between wards and that levels of care dropped at night time.
The report suggested that the NHS has been a victim of own success. Contemporary medicines are now allowing people to live longer, but this has resulted in them developing long-term conditions such dementia.
“All hospital patients deserve to receive safe, high-quality sustainable care centred around their needs,” said Professor Evans. “Yet it is increasingly clear that our hospitals are struggling to cope with the challenge of an ageing population who increasingly present to our hospitals with multiple, complex diseases.”
Solutions to tackle the problems, the report said, include concentrating services in fewer, larger sites that are able to provide excellent standards of care, regardless of the time of admission. The report also advises improving community services to stop patients returning to hospital.
Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said it is “completely wrong” to suggest the NHS is struggling to meet demand and insisted that the “NHS only uses approximately 85% of the beds it has available”.
“It is true that the NHS needs fundamental reform to cope with the challenges of the future,” he said. “To truly provide dignity in care for older people, we need to see even more care out of hospitals. That’s why we are modernising the NHS and putting the people who best understand patient's needs, doctors and nurses, in charge.”