The British Medical Association has warned that the UK will 'get sicker' unless the government improves pay and conditions for its doctors, as 2022 was officially one of the worst years in history for excess deaths.
‘Doctors are reaching their limit’, warns BMA
Data cited by the BBC shows that more than 650,000 fatalities were registered in 2022, one of the largest excess death tolls outside the pandemic in 50 years.
Almost 2,500 more people died in the week to 23 December than expected, nearly half of whom died in hospital. It is 20 per cent more than the five-year average for the same period and the highest number of additional deaths in a week since February 2021, during the pandemic's most deadly period.
Although there was a surge in ‘flu cases at the end of 2022 causing some of the excess deaths, reports say that long waiting times, understaffing and a crisis in emergency care are behind the rise.
As many as 500 deaths a week could be caused by delays in A&E, according to LCP Actuaries. Analysis found that in November, almost half of people attending major A&Es had to wait more than four hours to be seen - the worst level on record.
Reports show that doctors and medical staff are struggling to cope. One nurse who works in a hospital in London told Safety Management: “People are crying in the staff room. We are exhausted and overwhelmed.”
According to a BMA survey of 2,698 doctors, four in ten are thinking about leaving the NHS due to a combination of working conditions, worsening wellbeing and level of pay.
In the survey of junior doctors, who help make up half of all doctors in the UK, 83 per cent said that deteriorating working conditions was forcing them to consider leaving. Pay was a factor, but not the only one. 78 per cent cited a too heavy workload and 61 per cent spoke of a ‘worsening culture of the workplace’. “Many junior doctors are reaching the limit of what they can tolerate,” stated the BMA of the findings.
BMA chair of council Prof Philip Banfield commented: “The situation is severe. A third of junior doctors are planning to work in another country. Four in 10 say that as soon as they can find another job, they will leave the NHS. The health service will simply not be able to cope.
“For decades the NHS was the envy of the world. But without our doctors’ expertise, the country will get sicker.”
Read the BMA survey here
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