Editorial

Government must act now to prevent looming winter crisis

Ministers should heed warnings from nurses and prepare for the worst.
Ambulance in the snow

It may seem odd to be talking about winter pressures now, but there are signs already that the next 6-8 months are going to be challenging in the extreme.

A report from the RCN and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine suggests that emergency department staff are locked in a cycle of permanent crisis, with medical and nursing teams barely able to cope at the best of times. Add a protracted spell of icy weather into the mix and such a winter is overdue and the NHS could collapse under the strain.

The two royal colleges paint a grim picture. Here are just some of the terms that appear in their report: unsustainable workloads, system is overwhelmed, crowded and chaotic departments, dangerous for patients, demoralising for staff.

So whats to be done?

The organisations held a joint summit and devised a three-point plan, which

It may seem odd to be talking about winter pressures now, but there are signs already that the next 6-8 months are going to be challenging in the extreme.

A report from the RCN and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine suggests that emergency department staff are locked in a cycle of permanent crisis, with medical and nursing teams barely able to cope at the best of times. Add a protracted spell of icy weather into the mix – and such a winter is overdue – and the NHS could collapse under the strain.

The two royal colleges paint a grim picture. Here are just some of the terms that appear in their report: ‘unsustainable workloads’, ‘system is overwhelmed’, ‘crowded and chaotic departments’, ‘dangerous for patients’, ‘demoralising for staff’.

So what’s to be done?

The organisations held a joint summit and devised a three-point plan, which is set out in a report titled The Medicine Needed for the Emergency Care Service.

Top of the list is education and training. Not for the first time, managers stand accused of failing to invest in their workforce, with the result that staff burnout and turnover are so high that those left behind are feeling the strain.

A national workforce survey, to be undertaken in conjunction with Health Education England, is under way with a view to creating an effective and realistic workforce plan.

The colleges also plead with the government to face the reality that demand on emergency departments will continue to go up, and plan services accordingly. As they point out, asking people to stay away has not worked, so commissioners should accept the inevitable, expect attendances to rise and allocate resources accordingly.

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs