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Over a third of doctors feel unprepared for winter, survey finds

Under pressure, unprepared

By Beth Gault
13 October 2021

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Almost 40% (36%) of doctors believe their organisation is not prepared for winter, a survey by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has found.

The research, which surveyed 866 RCP fellows and members, also found that 27% of doctors feel personally unprepared, while almost two-thirds feel tired or exhausted.

Just over 32% were pessimistic about the coming months, while 36.5% felt demoralised.

One survey respondent said: ‘Winter is coming – uncertain times. Our region is already feeling the pinch of increased numbers at the front end and struggling with social care.

‘We remain optimistic and proud to be a part of NHS in fighting past, present and future waves of pressures and keep patients safe as much as humanly possible. I only hope Government recognises and re-enforces our workforce and supports us.’

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the record-length waiting lists for NHS services, which have arisen as a result of the Covid-19 pressures, are expected to rise before they fall.

President of the RCP, Andrew Goddard, said: ‘There are no two ways about it – it’s an incredibly difficult time to be working in medicine. Some things, such as embracing flexible working, will help to improve morale now, while increasing the size of the workforce will ensure that in future, staff never feel as under pressure and undervalued as they do today.

‘We need a commitment from government to produce regular, independent and published assessments of future workforce requirements across the NHS and social care. This will give us much-needed long-term projections of workforce needs so that enough staff are being trained up to meet those requirements.’

Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said: ‘It is always deeply concerning to hear reports of low morale among the medical workforce. 

‘This is even more important as we head into the challenging winter months. The NHS is already under significant strain as the health service works flat out to recover care backlogs, deal with increased demand for emergency care, while grappling with serious staffing pressures.  

‘This winter the NHS could be the busiest it’s ever been. It is vital national bodies work with NHS leaders to get the planning for winter pressures right to help manage the risk ahead.’  

Last month, charity the Health Foundation warned that there were ‘missing patients’ who were expected to be referred for routine hospital care during the pandemic but did not come forward. These, the charity said, risk inflating the backlog beyond the 5.6 million already on waiting lists.

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