Less than a third of doctors (29%) responding to a poll by the RCP say they have been asked to take part in planning for winter, despite last winter being one of the worst on record for the NHS and extra pressure over summer due to the heatwave.
This low level of involvement may explain why over half (56%) of participants say they are worried or very worried about the ability of their service to deliver safe patient care this winter, with only 17% saying they are confident or very confident.
The poll of UK foundation doctors, trainees, consultants and SAS doctors, conducted from 14–21 November 2018, also found that doctors didn't know how emergency funding for social care will help. Only 66 of the 1,737 respondents say they know how it will be used to reduce the pressure on their hospital, from providing beds in the community to employing more carers.
Professor Andrew Goddard, RCP president, said:
We know the government and NHS are doing much more to plan for winter than they were prior to 2017/18. We also know that staff will continue to go above and beyond this winter. But it’s critical that they feel valued.
We urge trusts to take this opportunity to share their plans with staff now, and adapt them where possible based on feedback from the frontline.
When we’re concerned that the wheels could fall off any moment, the pressure goes up and morale goes down.
We need to feel confident that these plans are in place so we can get on with the job of providing direct clinical care. When we’re concerned that the wheels could fall off any moment, the pressure goes up and morale goes down.
As NHS Improvement’s Focus on improving patient flow says, good management of emergency admissions is a ‘team sport’. And if all elements of the workforce are involved in planning, they’ll feel personally better prepared.
Emma Vaux, RCP vice president for education and training, said:
As consultants, we have a responsibility to find out about winter plans where we work. We need to know what they mean for our trainees, both those we’re already working with and those who may move to help shore up services.
When a trainee does come to us from a different area, we must make sure they have a good induction and ongoing clinical supervision. We must consider their clinical competence in an unfamiliar specialty and support them appropriately.
And we must remember they still have training needs and learning outcomes that need to be met.
This is the first of three short surveys the RCP is conducting this winter. The second will be conducted in January 2019, and the final one the following March.
Have you been asked to take part in planning for winter in your organisation?
- Yes 29.2%
- No 69.1%
- Don’t know 1.7%
How confident do you feel about the ability of your service to deliver safe patient care this winter?
- Very confident 2.4%
- Confident 14.6%
- Neutral 24.6%
- Worried 38.5%
- Very worried 19.8%
Earlier this year the government announced emergency funding for social care. Do you know how it will be used to reduce the pressure on your hospital?
- Yes 3.8%
- No 96.2%