The government must “get real” over the crisis facing the NHS, Dr Mark Porter told delegates at the BMA’s annual representative meeting in Liverpool.
Instead of empty promises politicians should give patients, their families and those working in the NHS what they really need – honesty, respect and a sense of reality.
He said: “It is truly a message for everyone across the country. As our No More Games campaign made clear, politicians from every party have been guilty of scoring cheap political points from the NHS, of dragging committed staff into political rows, and making promises they know they cannot keep.
“As one election passes, and with three more soon to hit us, they’ll all tell us how much they love the NHS. Well, thanks for that, but what patients and their families need, what those of us working in the NHS need, is honesty, respect and a sense of reality. We want to see clear plans, with clear funding for delivering improvements, free of dogma and ideology.
“We will work with any government that wants to truly protect and improve the NHS. You want a fresh start? We’ll start today. The NHS faces a real crisis. It affects real people. The government must get real. With urgency, with compassion and by offering a hand, not an axe, they can get real.”
With politicians’ promises coming at time when the NHS is facing a £30 billion funding black hole and a rising recruitment and retention crisis, Porter warned of the growing gulf between what patients have been promised and the reality on the ground.
He said: “We have a government run from cloud nine rather than number 10. The crisis is real, but their solutions show little grasp of reality. A debilitating NHS deficit, to be met with a £22 billion wish and a promise. A pledge to expand services, with barely the detail to fill a post-it note. And a crude, unrealistic attempt to marginalise patients safety in our contracts. The crisis is real. For the sake of every single one of our patients, it’s time for the government to get real.”
Dr Porter’s comments come as a new BMA survey reveals the extent to which doctors are being affected by the growing pressures on the NHS. The latest BMA tracker survey shows the UK across that almost a third of doctors (30%) consider themselves to be suffering from, or have previously suffered from, burnout, while 41% believe they are at high risk of burnout in the near future.
The results echo those of an analysis by researchers in Salzburg of 7,218 responses to a BMA questionnaire, which found a staggering 80% of responses had a high to very high burnout score. The questionnaire, aimed at doctors and published by the BMA’s Doctors for Doctors unit, also showed that half of those who completed it between November 2010 and January 2014 work as GPs.
In his speech Dr Porter said that the government’s focus on budget cuts over quality is harming both patients and is having an impact on doctors’ wellbeing.
He said: “We’ve had Mid Staffs, we’ve had Francis, and cost is still being put before quality. This is, quite simply, wrong,” adding that the “most insidious of cuts are imposed upon staff who are still suffering from a disastrous restructuring of the health service, who face an unprecedented workload, and have no clarity about the future. It is harming some of the doctors here today. It is harming our friends, our colleagues and our patients.”