Letter: It's true - the NHS is facing a humanitarian crisis

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Letter: It's true - the NHS is facing a humanitarian crisis

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The Red Cross is justified in using emotive terminology says Kevin Davies

The British Red Cross is absolutely right to talk about a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in the NHS. This strong, emotive terminology is sadly accurate. Our hospitals have been in crisis for some time and it is crucial that leaders within healthcare across the professions take hold of the crisis and work with all the agencies available to ensure high calibre care that is delivered in an appropriate manner and with dignity at its heart.

It has been obvious for years that a crisis in nurse manpower was inevitable with an ageing workforce and large numbers taking early retirement. Nurses who might have worked longer are not doing so simply because they have to struggle against huge challenges to deliver the fundamentals of safe care. I suspect that retirement options are attractive because there is no light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Our hospitals are full to capacity and social services are not what they need to be. In most regions what we would have known in the past as ‘step down’ facilities have been closed. I recently had a meeting with an architect in order to get an idea of the cost of establishing new versions of step down for patients who do not need acute care, but are in need of some supported care prior to going home. Answer? £3.5 million for a 40-bed single ensuite new build, with costs at £100 per night per patient. While the initial cost might sound high consider it against £800 per patient per night minimum in an acute hospital. A cost that might be incurred for months. The point is break even is around the four-year mark which is not at all unreasonable.

It is clear we need to think differently, be imaginative and more importantly consider the future and not simply firefight the here and now. This takes strong leadership and our nurse leaders need to be at the forefront in meeting the challenge.

Professor Kevin Davies MBE