What has gone wrong in the NHS? Part one: doctors' experiences

In the first of a three-part series, RCP president Professor Jane Dacre takes stock of the current state of the NHS and the roles of medical professionals. 

Everyone knows the history of the NHS and our journey to the current crisis – rising demand, falling bed numbers, workforce shortages and limited resources. It shouldn’t have to be like this.

Patients deserve:

  • a well-funded NHS
  • a well-supported workforce
  • investment in new ways of working that will improve the patient journey.

I make no apologies for repeating our message: the NHS is underfunded, underdoctored and overstretched.

Professor Jane Dacre, RCP president

So what has gone wrong in the NHS? I make no apologies for repeating our message: the NHS is underfunded, underdoctored and overstretched.

Our comprehensive census data on the working lives of physicians, in addition to the facts and figures about how we work, consistently shows how the current pressures in the NHS are affecting our work. Morale among consultants and trainees is low.

In September 2016 the RCP published a detailed report on the subject, which we then presented to politicians at their party conferences, and in January all RCP Council members wrote to Theresa May with further recommendations, particularly to invest in social care to relieve our hospitals from exit block.

    I am determined that in my meetings with ministers I will share real examples of NHS pressures.

    Professor Jane Dacre, RCP president

    Two weeks ago we also published Against the odds, a report of RCP members’ experiences of winter pressures, from which I will share some examples:

    • 'Patients are dying as a result of not accessing specialist care, as the hospitals are jam-full.'
    • 'My hospital has 99 delayed discharges and 60 medical outliers in surgical beds.'
    • 'One patient spent so long waiting for social care that her family were bringing in IKEA furniture to make her hospital bed area "more homely".'

    As many front-line medical professionals already know, and the data shows, this continued pressure is taking its toll. I am determined that, in my meetings with ministers, I will share real examples of NHS pressures. And not just that, but how hard you are working to cope with them.

    Professor Jane Dacre, RCP president

    This text has been adapted from Jane's address to RCP members and fellows on 16 March at Medicine 2017: RCP annual conference.

    The RCP reports Underfunded, underdoctored, overstretched: the NHS in 2016 and Against the odds: experiences from the NHS front line are available to download.

    What has gone wrong in the NHS? Part two and part three are available to read now.