The Royal College of Physicians has responded to new analysis by the Health Foundation which shows that while 800,000 (12%) fewer patients in England were admitted to hospital in 2022 than in 2019, the same time saw the average length of hospital stay increase.
In 2022, the total number of hospital admissions in England was around 6 million, compared to 6.8 million in 2019. In contrast, once admitted, the average time a patient spent in hospital increased from 7.3 days (2019) to 8.3 days (2022).
As covered today by The Times, president of the Royal College of Physicians, Dr Sarah Clarke responded to the analysis from the Health Foundation:
“There are likely many factors at play here including a lack of long-term planning, health inequalities and the impact of the pandemic. It is concerning to see that admissions were down in the most deprived deciles. We know doctors are under immense strain, and that this is impacting patient care.
“Our own census this week revealed that length of hospital stays was the one of the factors that doctors said was most affected by consultant physician shortages. Meanwhile the doctors we do have are facing significant levels of burnout and worryingly nearly one in five almost never feel in control of their workload.
“We do know that the workforce is too small to cope – this cannot continue. We must see the long-term workforce plan, with full staffing projections and underpinned by funding, now.”
The latest census from the Federation of Royal Colleges of Physicians in the UK revealed that 58% of consultant physicians reported having vacant consultant posts with an average of 2.2 vacant posts per department. More than 70% said rota gaps had impacted patient care with reduced access to outpatient care (26%), inpatient care of hours (23%) and increased length of stay (23%) the most commonly cited impacts.
Consultants also feel their workload is unmanageable, with nearly a fifth (18%) saying they almost never feel in control of their workload and 19% at risk of burnout.