The head of patient watchdog Healthwatch Derbyshire is asking for local people’s views and experiences of how the winter pressures on the NHS are affecting their lives and is calling for a holistic approach to avoid a reoccurrence of issues in future years.
Karen Ritchie is Chief Executive of Healthwatch Derbyshire which is the independent voice for people in the county on health and social care issues.
She said: “Healthwatch Derbyshire is monitoring the impact on patients of winter pressures and it is vital that the views and experiences of patients and service users are heard as part of this work.
“We encourage the public to contact us if they have been affected so that this can be fed back to health and social care providers and commissioners to action improvements.
“This is not an issue of trusts failing to prepare adequately for winter pressures.
“It is a much larger and systemic issue – arising from the failure to address the rise in demand for services across the whole of the NHS due to an ageing population with more complex needs.
“Funding for the NHS is not keeping up with the demand for services, and times like these make it increasingly worrying that it is patients’ safety that will be compromised as a result.”
She continued: “Accident and Emergency departments report pressure all year round, but particularly at this time of year with the added pressures of treating chest infections, flu and infectious winter vomiting bugs like norovirus.
“Staff are tired and overworked and patients are waiting well over the target of four hours and issues reporter nationally are that patients arriving at hospital are being kept on trolleys because hospital beds are unavailable.
“Patients are further impacted by the cancellation of routine operations at many hospital trusts until the end of January to manage the issue.
“Furthermore, the knock on effects will be felt for some months to come with trusts facing a backlog – resulting in waiting lists becoming increasingly lengthy.”
Healthwatch Derbyshire is therefore calling for a long-term, sustainable solution to the issues sending the NHS into crisis – particularly during the winter months.
Ms Ritchie continued: “Change is needed, not only in terms of how the NHS is funded, but also in how it is delivered.
“More care needs to be provided in people’s own homes and the community and the barriers that prevent services working together in a patient-centred way need to be broken down.”
In a non-emergency situation, patients are advised to call the 111 number for clinical advice, assessment and to be directed to the most appropriate services.
To have your say on health and social care services, please visit the Healthwatch Derbyshire website www.healthwatchderbyshire.co.uk for email, address and social media contacts of telephone 01773 880786.