The NHS is facing “a perfect storm” winter crisis, as ministers’ energies are diverted by Brexit, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, warned today (Thursday 20 December).
Unite, which has a 100,000 members in the health service, said that a combination of factors were coalescing to produce a winter crisis, as the government’s attention is focused on the Brexit imbroglio.
Unite said such diverse factors included:
The boost to the NHS’s budget promised in the summer works out at three per cent year, when historically the annual rise since the NHS was founded in 1948 is four per cent on average.
The dramatic 24 per cent decline in the number of health visitors since October 2015, when the health visitor implementation plan ended.
The 12 per cent drop in the number of mental health nurses between May 2010 and August 2018.
The large number of vacancies in the NHS in such jobs as ambulance and paramedic workers; clinical psychologists; mental health nurses; and learning disability support assistants. Recruitment and retention remains a serious problem for the health service.
The lack of progress in the integration between health and social care, as the elderly population continues to grow.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said, “The NHS is facing a perfect storm this winter as ministers’ energies are subsumed by Brexit.
“The £20bn a year injection of extra cash for the NHS by 2023-24 announced by the government in the summer is simply not going to be enough to cope with rising demand, as the population increases.
“It works out at three per cent a year when historically, since the NHS was founded in 1948, the average has been four per cent – the shortfall in funding is glaring.
“Every year the NHS faces a difficult period during the winter, but this time we are facing a perfect storm as a diverse range of issues come home to roost.
“It is time that health secretary Matt Hancock and his ministerial team refocus their energies on tackling the crisis engulfing the beleaguered NHS, rather than simply, once again, kicking the can down the road, which seems to be the maxim for this government.”