The President of the Intensive Care Society responds to the announcement by the Chancellor outlining the Government’s Spending Review.
President of the Intensive Care Society, Dr Stephen Webb Said: The Spending Review
announced by the Chancellor provides a much-welcomed boost in funding to the NHS. The additional £5.9 billion extra capital to tackle the backlog of millions of patients awaiting elective care is especially crucial at this time. We also note the allocation of 1.5 billion aimed at increasing capacity.”
While we are grateful for the much needed additional funding allocation for the NHS, the Government have failed to recognise the severity of the pressing issue that is staffing. We know the health care service has widespread workforce shortages across all departments, specialties, and grades – a shortage of 115,000 according to the Health Foundation and this is on the rise.
There is an undeniable crisis around ICU workforce, and the same applies across all other NHS specialties. Staffing levels were already an issue pre-pandemic, this has only worsened over the past 20 months as ICUs battled through the worst healthcare crisis in a century. Some of our leaders, colleagues and friends have left as a result. Amongst the worst affected are our ICU nurses.
As a result of the pandemic, ICU staffing ratios as outlined in the Intensive Care Society and Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine’s joint Guidelines for the Provision of Intensive Care Services, have been diluted to cope with capacity and staff sickness. This is an unsustainable model and must not be a long-term fix. Ratios must return back to pre-pandemic conditions to ensure our patients receive the best and safest care possible.
Intensive Care requires the right number and skill mix of staff to care for the patients in our beds. Many more than in other specialties, purely because our patients are the sickest. An ICU bed without staff is like having the shell of car (the bed) with an engine (the monitors and equipment) fuelled and ready to go, but has no driver (the trained, skilled staff).
Whilst we welcome the investment in the NHS, we must be clear, without addressing the workforce crisis we are at risk of not having enough healthcare professionals to staff the current funded beds, let alone the additional beds and surgical hubs that are opened.”
Staff are exhausted, burnt out, and now facing their usual winter stresses as well as the unrelenting pressures from COVID.
As a matter of urgency, a short-term plan is needed to provide a stop gap to support our current workforce, and then a long-term roadmap needs to be established by the Government on how it plans to train and employ tens of thousands of new healthcare professionals across all grades to fill the gaps.
The message is clear, failure to protect our current workforce and recruit future healthcare professionals puts intensive care, the wider NHS, and most importantly our patients at risk.
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