A third of NHS leaders fear the Covid backlog will take between three and five years to clear, a poll reveals.
A survey of trust leaders, carried out by NHS Providers, has revealed widespread worries about access to care.
With waiting lists already at a record high, some 96 per cent of bosses said demand is significantly rising, with mental health, urgent and emergency care and cancer services topping their worries.
Two thirds said they feared backlogs will make health inequalities worse, while 87 per cent said patients now have more complex needs than before the pandemic.
Two thirds said they feared backlogs will make health inequalities worse, while 87 per cent said patients now have more complex needs than before the pandemic (stock photo)
The survey, which was sent to 170 bosses at 199 trusts, comes as NHS data to be published today is expected to show the highest ever waiting list in England.
The number of those waiting for hospital treatment hit 5.6million in July.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said the NHS is ‘fighting fires on multiple fronts’ and the ‘key intervention’ needed is more staff
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said the NHS is ‘fighting fires on multiple fronts’ and the ‘key intervention’ needed is more staff.
Ms Cordery said: ‘Our survey reveals the sheer scale of the challenge that trusts are now managing.
‘Trust leaders are fighting fires on multiple fronts as they try to recover care backlogs, deal with increased demand for emergency care, treat patients with Covid-19 and prepare for what is likely to be the most challenging winter yet for the NHS.
‘In a matter of weeks, we will face our first winter where both flu and Covid are in circulation.
‘NHS staff are doing all they can to bear down on the care backlog, but the reality on the frontline is that even a small increase in flu, Covid-19 admissions or emergency care attendance will really increase the pressure on the service.’
Waiting lists already at a record high, and some 96 per cent of bosses said demand is significantly rising, with mental health, urgent and emergency care and cancer services topping their worries (stock photo)
She said trusts were working with partners across the health and care system ‘to manage waiting lists to prioritise the sickest patients’, but that the key intervention NHS leaders need is new staff.
‘We must not forget that the service entered the pandemic with over 100,000 workforce vacancies,’ she said.
‘We need a fully costed and funded multi-year workforce plan sooner rather than later.’
The new face-to-face revolution: Sajid Javid launches overhaul in GP access so all patients can see a doctor in person… with league tables and ‘hit squads’ for those that fail
Sajid Javid last night launched a revolution in GP access designed to ensure all patients can see a doctor face to face.
Family doctors will be offered an extra £250 million to improve patient access – but will be named and shamed in new league tables if they fail to deliver.
The nine-point plan is a major victory for the Daily Mail’s Let’s See GPs Face to Face campaign.
Health Secretary Mr Javid, Boris Johnson and new NHS chief Amanda Pritchard all paid tribute to the Mail for highlighting the devastating decline in the number of patients able to see their doctor in person.
Under the new proposals, patients will be given the right to demand a face-to-face appointment with their family doctor.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has launched a revolution in GP access designed to ensure all patients can see a doctor face to face. Pictured: Mr Javid at a Westminster pharmacy yesterday
GPs will be told they should refuse a plea to have an in-person consultation only if there are good clinical reasons.
The NHS England ‘Plan for GPs and Patients’ will give practices £250 million of extra cash to take on more staff, ensuring patients can have an appointment on the day they request one. This could include extending opening hours.
But they will not be able to access the extra money if too many of their consultations are carried out over the telephone or online.
New ‘transparency’ rules will also publish data on the level of service offered by individual GP practices, including the level of access for patients seeking face-to-face appointments.
Mr Javid confirmed GPs will be offered £250million in funding to help improve patient access
Whitehall sources acknowledged the data would allow the creation of local and national league tables, with the worst performers named and shamed in the media.
Chemists will prescribe extra drugs and treat wider range of illnesses to free up GPs
Pharmacists will become the first port of call for most minor illnesses under plans being considered by Sajid Javid to free up GPs to deal with more serious cases.
The Health Secretary’s battle plan for improving access to family doctors includes options to give local chemists enhanced powers to treat a wide range of minor complaints.
This is likely to include handing them the power to prescribe a number of medicines which are currently the sole preserve of doctors.
A health source said Mr Javid wanted to see a ‘substantially’ increased role for pharmacists, adding: ‘He is looking at expanding quickly the role that they play.
‘He is interested in whether they can do more in terms of prescribing.
‘It is all about sharing the workload and freeing up GPs to deal with more complex cases.’
The source said the Health Secretary was examining the ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme in Scotland that allows pharmacies to treat a wide range of common conditions from earache and sore throats to hay fever and cystitis.
Ministers hope the scheme will make it easier for patients with minor conditions to get treatment more quickly, as well as freeing up GPs.
Writing in the Mail today, Mr Javid said: ‘Another way we’re going to ensure more time is spent with patients is by spreading the workload.
‘I want every practice to use the NHS Community Pharmacy Consultation service, so our brilliant community pharmacists can do more in terms of prescribing.
‘I’m asking my department to work with the NHS and look at a “Pharmacy First” scheme for England, so pharmacists can provide treatment for specific conditions like sore throats, without patients having to go to their GP, building on pilot schemes in England and much as they already do in Scotland.’
GP practices which fail to improve access for patients will face direct intervention from teams of NHS trouble-shooters.
To help doctors improve their service, red tape will be slashed to give GPs more time to see patients in person – and telephone systems will be upgraded to make it easier to book an appointment.
Meanwhile, pharmacists will get enhanced powers to treat a wide range of minor complaints to ease the pressure.
The Department of Health will reduce administrative burdens on GPs by reforming who can provide medical evidence and certificates such as fit notes and DVLA checks – freeing up time for more appointments.
And officials will today confirm that GP surgeries can scrap the two-metre social distancing rule imposed during the pandemic, which has dramatically reduced numbers in waiting rooms.
However, last night there were signs the plans would spark a row with doctors’ unions and some frontline GPs.
Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP Committee, said the proposals would make appointments harder to book and the Government was ‘out of touch’.
He said it was disappointing to see there was ‘no end in sight to the preoccupation with face-to-face appointments’ – and demanded an end to ‘target-driven, payment-by-results’.
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said there was ‘nothing here to address the long-standing workforce pressures facing general practice’.
But he cautiously welcomed plans to slash bureaucracy. ‘GPs go into medicine to care for patients, yet they spend a significant amount of their time on box-ticking and filling forms,’ he said.
‘This bureaucracy has an impact on workload in general practice, which has become increasingly ‘undoable’ and is leading to many GPs, and other members of the team, burning out or leaving the profession.
Last night the Prime Minister praised the Mail for highlighting the collapse in face-to-face appointments over the past two years.
Mr Johnson said: ‘The Mail’s campaign on this issue has shown the importance of everyone having the choice and ability to see their GP face to face, and this plan will mean more appointments at more surgeries.’ Writing for the Mail, Mr Javid said he was determined to get the NHS ‘closer to pre-pandemic levels of face-to-face appointments’.
Mrs Pritchard thanked the Mail for acting as ‘a strong voice for patients’, adding that there would also be a new effort to tackle abuse against GPs.
The nine-point plan came as a YouGov poll found that two-thirds of people prefer a face-to-face appointment.