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A system in gridlock unable to operate effectively

This is the concerning description of the state of health and social care in England based on a review of the last year (2021/22) in a CQC Report published on Friday 21 October. Many of the observations have been made before, but intervention is still needed to ensure equal access to care for everyone in society.

NHS care is something to be proud of, and the report rightly acknowledges that those accessing care usually receive a high standard of treatment.   But with approximately 25% of acute core services rated below good or outstanding, there are still lots of people being let down.     

Why these failings appear to disproportionately affect specific groups who already face inequality, can’t yet be addressed.    The suspicion is that health and social care is less effective or harder to access for those in socio economically deprived areas, from some ethnic minorities, and for those with learning disabilities.  If these inequalities are to be eradicated more data is needed to identify the nature and extent of the problem.

The report highlights a worryingly wide range of problems impacting up and down the country, from which a small snapshot includes:

  • Maternity services for both mothers and babies remains in need of  improvement for the consistent safe delivery of care
  • The struggle to secure a GP appointment, is leaving patients with a choice of simply not accessing any help, or going to overstretched A&E departments
  • Ambulances queue while an unprecedented number of patient handovers take more than an hour
  • Mental health services are attempting to treat young people in unsuitable environments
  • More children are being denied access to NHS dentists
  • Where you live can impact how long you wait for cancer treatment
  • The wait time for elective procedures is increasing
  • Those with learning disabilities or autism can’t access the quality of care they need when in hospital

A state of ‘crisis’ where there is a risk of doing harm was the constant fear described by those working in the healthcare system.   So a vicious cycle occurs where a system that can’t be fixed without more staff, struggles to recruit and retain. 

Care homes too face struggles, and home care isn’t delivered, because there are no carers available.  The report estimates that in Q1 of 2022, more than 2.2m hrs which should have been delivered, wasn’t.   This means pressure on hospitals increases because people can’t be discharged.

While the report makes for pretty grim reading it’s important to seek encouragement from the examples of positive initiatives, such as those being pioneered by Newcastle Hospitals.  They are increasing hours and services to ensure access to cancer treatment, and embracing technology to deliver this at home where possible. 

With increased investment, training, better communications and a collaborative approach, much can be done to improve individual experiences for those accessing health and social care.   We need to find ways to make sure our medical staff and carers all feel valued and rewarded, able to safely continue the vital work they do and in turn protect the safety of patients. 

Until improvements occur, for the public who have been affected, a claim for damages can often be the only way to secure the answers, support, necessary rehabilitation, aids or care which is needed.    When speaking to clients and families who have suffered as a result of  negligence, they want answers, prevent it happening to others and damages to put them back in the position they would have been in but for the negligence, allowing them to move forward with their lives. 

If you or your family have been affected by any aspect of the health or social care system we have teams of specialists who can help you. Find out more at our dedicated medical negligence section