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Jeremy Hunt: Year-on-year pressure on doctors 'not sustainable'

Doctors ‘knew there was going to be pressurised moments’ when they went into medicine, but the current situation is 'not sustainable', the health secretary has said.

The interview with ITV News comes as official figures released today show that January saw the worst A&E waiting times performance since monthly records began in 2010, with 77.1% of patients being seen within four hours – well below the 95% target.

Mr Hunt said: ‘I completely recognise the pressures that they have been going through and when they signed up to go into medicine they knew there was going to be pressurised moments. 

‘But I also recognise that it is not sustainable and not fair to say to them this is going to be repeated year in, year out.

‘I think we’re beyond the time when words from me will make a difference. What they need to see is action.’

Mr Hunt added that ‘significantly more’ money would need to be spent on the NHS to ensure services could cope with demand.

He said: ‘In terms of pressures on the system I think it probably is the worst ever because we’ve got very high levels of demand.’

He added: ‘We’ve got the flu outbreak which, although it’s not an epidemic, is the worst we’ve had for many years.’

However, the latest flu statistics show that GP consultation rates for flu have fallen in the past week from 52.1 per 100,000 in the week previous, to 43 per 100,000.

Justin Madders MP, Labour’s shadow health minister, said Mr Hunt's comments were 'startling' and show 'how entirely out of touch with the reality of the NHS winter crisis Jeremy Hunt is'.

He said: 'It follows the Prime Minister’s bizarre comment last month that cancelled operations were ‘part of the plan’ for the NHS and that ‘nothing is perfect’.

'The truth is that our hardworking NHS staff provide the best possible care in the face of unprecedented pressures and are all that stand between the current crisis and total collapse.

'Almost eight years of sustained underfunding of our health and care services have resulted in the worst winter crisis on record, with almost 140,000 patients stuck in the back of ambulances for over 30 minutes. Saying these are ‘pressured moments’ totally underestimates the scale of the problem.'

Readers' comments (26)

  • Prof Stephenson said being a doctor is comparable to soldiers going to war.
    It is worse than that. Soldiers have terrible ' Tours of duty', but then they have times of peace.
    Every day, I go to work it is huge numbers of patients, dealing with problems beyond my expertise many times, because of waiting lists and there is no let up at all.
    See what it does to the likes of Dr Garba.
    Sadly and unjustly and unfairly, not only do we the work of 4 people many many times with no 'Thank you', but complaints and GMC investigations and Manslaughter charges.
    My personal opinion is that as long as a legal system exists that jails you for just being human [ see Prof. Catto's admission] we should not work in the UK, unless we are forced by circumstance to do so.

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  • It is possible that Jeremy Hunt can only communicate effectively to his cabinet colleagues - via the media. Perhaps this is his method of bidding to try and make more money available to the NHS.

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  • he is up to something but I don"t know what.

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  • Council of Despair

    unfortunately the viewpoint is that it's part of the job is shared by the public. If you read the response in the papers as to decision for the appeal the public take the view that we are trying to hide our imcompetance, shifting blame, and that we knew what we signed up for. The inference being 'they' (the state, public and regulators) want us to take on more risk but at the same time they will punish any perceived error. If that is the case then medicine in the UK is untenable. The public have to come clean and tell us what they expect of us - we can then decide individually if we accept those terms. Do not look to the BMA or royal colleges for support - they are looking after themselves. THe GMC are trying to shift the narrative i.e. the case has helped highlight issues and they welcome Hunt's call to look into things but as a regulator whose sole purpose is safety then this was not unforseen. The leaders of the GMC should all be fired.

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  • Council of Despair

    in fact I would hope that Pulse would interview Massey and Stephenson and ask them;

    1) Did they actually revie wthe case and if so how were problems not forseen?
    2) Given that they have admitted doctors are under pressure and wrote to the government about the crisis - do they think that is enough?
    30 why is it they can hold to account doctors but not the state politicians that contributed to the increased risk we are under ?

    I'm not a journo but I'm sure there are lots of other questions.

    why are they not accountable?
    where is the CQC?
    where is NHSE?
    where is Simon Stevens?

    etc etc ....

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  • Just you wait and see what comes next. His friends in the private sector will ride to save the 'unsustainable' NHS. that the public purse can no longer afford.
    All part of the plan

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  • Except same drs would be needed for private sector as for public and unless they are going to pay handsomely/ allow autonomy or improve work conditions there will still be a big hole in recruitment

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  • 5:30pm. I have not had my lunch and no time for nature's call. Just finished battling all the continuous barrage with prescriptions, oxygen HOOF, ambulance, ICT, juniors. This job is not doable.

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  • "Pressure not sustainable...actions not words"
    Maybe the action should be scrapping the requirement for primary care to be open 8-8 seven days a week (non-evidence based policy) and investing the savings in core services?

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  • Whatever J Hunt says about the NHS, the only signal he is providing is more money is needed for his cronies. More money will be given to the NHS, just not the frontline staf, why, coz they signed up for the daily traumatic experience of seeing their patients dying in corridors, coz they signed up for a very short career in medicine in this country, either retiring early or emigrating, coz they signed up to give up their family life and own well being, coz they signed up to be respected intelligent individuals bein told by absolute numpties about how to do their own job, basically coz uve signed up to be a doctor or a nurse in this country, u’ve basically signed up to be a robot. But Mr Secretary- we knew we were signing up for it. And yes about the money, the private companies will get the contracts , it will be shown more money is being invested in NHS , on paper, and the politics goes on.
    We don’t need words from you Mr Hunt, we need action, only one of the two action, either put money where your mouth is, or resign.

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