Partha Kar

If you want to keep patients safe, invest in social care not doctors and nurses

Where have we got to with the NHS? Is it all doom and gloom from the bowels of Mordor? Or are shiny, happy, positive things happening, with unicorns gently gliding over sparkly rainbows?

The reality continues to be somewhere in between. Mostly average to good care – spattered with examples of excellence and blighted by occasional poor care.

However, what I am seeing now is a situation we’ve not witnessed before. Hospitals now have a greater number of patients inside hospitals waiting for “something”. The year-on-year dissolution of social care is now having a domino effect on many services.

There is a debate to be had about family structures and what support children offer to their parents as they age – and perhaps much of that has been masked by the social support provided by the State.

But we have now entered different times and our hospital beds are choked. A greater number of patients are getting stuck due to no fault of their own. The 4-hour target is creaking and understandably hospital managers are under the cosh in trying to resolve this. The irony? No amount of doctor time will help these people go home.

Social care is now in crisis and there needs to be a realization that the NHS needs to raise a collective voice and ask “what next”?

I do ward rounds on weekends and I walk past bed after bed where I am unable to contribute much as a clinician. It’s frustrating and the number is increasing every single time I go back on the wards.

To the powers that be, please do raise the query. It’s either that or we challenge the structure of a society which has devolved the responsibility for their parents to the State.

I have sympathy for hospitals who are beaten up over a 4-hour target when a significant reason for that isn’t due to lack of medical/nursing engagement or simply “process”.

What does happen as a consequence is those who are in hospitals due to genuine medical reasons are then discharged quicker, a bit more risk taken, a bit closer to the edge. It opens up further gateways to error – ask any GP and they will tell you about the patients being sent home and the risks being taken.

The system is choked and now the knock-on effect is disrupting elective work, challenging safety and going to the basic core of keeping patients safe.

More doctors and nurses isn’t the answer – use that money (if you have it) to buy social care. That will keep patients safe and may just help hospitals hit the 4-hour target.

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