With winter approaching, health professionals delivering care in the North East will understandably be nervous about what lies in store.
The announcement by the Health Secretary of an extra £240million for social care this winter will go some way towards easing pressure on frontline services. Of course, this is just another short-term fix.
As experienced in the chaos of last winter, adequate staffing and capacity in social care is a vital part of relieving pressures in the NHS. Patients can be discharged from hospital in a timely manner, making more beds available for the increasing numbers of people accessing care during this busier period.
Given, however, the significant impact of decades’ worth of cuts to social care – down eight per cent in real terms in England since 2010 – this by no means offers the comprehensive remedy that is needed.
If we are to stop the practice of last-minute fire-fighting and put an end to the crisis mode of winter, the Government must provide the necessary long-term investment.
Only then will we begin to see the type of change necessary to relieve year-round pressures on services and enable sustained improvements to patient care.
Dr George Rae,
BMA North East Regional Council Chairman