Feeling the pressure: Patient care in an overstretched NHS in Wales

The Royal College of Physicians' (RCP's) Feeling the pressure: Patient care in an overstretched NHS in Wales report documents the results of a snapshot survey on the winter pressures faced by doctors in Wales. 

Among the results of the survey, the RCP found that:

  • almost three-quarters of respondents said that there had been a big rise in NHS demand in the past 12 months
  • more than half of respondents thought that patient safety in their hospital had deteriorated in the past 12 months  
  • four out of five respondents told us that they had experienced staff shortages across the team in the past 12 months   
  • more than three-quarters of respondents had experienced delays in patient discharge owing to a lack of capacity in social care. 

Feeling the pressure

Across Wales, consultant and trainee physicians are working at the hospital front door and on the wards. These physicians are leading the multidisciplinary care of thousands of people every day, working with colleagues in primary and social care to put patients at the very centre of our NHS. But despite their hard work, our fellows and members are struggling to cope. The recruitment crisis is getting worse – last year, we were unable to fill 40% of consultant physician vacancies in Wales and there are major trainee rota gaps in every hospital in Wales. This simply cannot continue. 

Above all, we need to give front-line clinicians ... the time and space to innovate, and the freedom and support to step beyond organisational walls

In all our hospitals, we are now seeing the impact of a historically underfunded social care system. We must transform a fragmented NHS by improving joined-up planning across health and social care. Above all, we need to give front-line clinicians – and their partners in social care – the time and space to innovate, and the freedom and support to step beyond organisational walls. 

RCP recommendations

The NHS in Wales must step up to the challenge. We need to: 

  • deliver more specialist care in the community. Physicians and specialist medical teams should spend more time working in the community. The role of the community physician should be developed.
  • develop new ways of communicating. More patients should be able to communicate with healthcare professionals using telemedicine, to reduce pressure on hospital beds. Communication between primary, secondary, community and social care should be improved. 
  • break down barriers. Wales should actively promote itself as a place to develop highly specialist skills in rural and community-based medicine, with doctors working in collaboration with their partners in social care and community teams.  

Contact

Follow us on Twitter at @RCPWales and join the discussion using the #MedicineisBrilliant / #MeddygaethynWych hashtags. 

For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact RCP senior policy and public affairs adviser Lowri Jackson by email at Lowri.Jackson@rcplondon.ac.uk