BHF responds to Government’s plan for patients and the NHS

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We have responded to the Health and Social Care Secretary’s new plan for patients, calling for urgent action to address severe NHS staff shortages in cardiac care. 
 

Health and Social Care secretary Thérèse Coffey MP today set out the Government’s ‘Our Plan for Patients’ in the House of Commons.  
 
The plan promises to deliver across four key areas: ambulances, backlogs, care, doctors and dentists. 
 
We’ve analysed the plan to see what it will mean for heart and stroke patients, but we believe it is too thin on detail and does not deliver the fully funded workforce plan that is urgently needed.

Ambulances 

The Health and Social Care Secretary announced that every hospital and ambulance trust will have a plan to reduce long ambulance handover delays. 
 
There are also plans for an extra 7,000 hospital beds, including 2,500 beds with remote monitoring from patients’ homes to reduce pressure on hospitals. 
 
Latest figures reveal that the average ambulance response time for a suspected heart attack or stroke in England is 43 minutes. The target is 18 minutes. 

We welcome the focus on tackling hospital handover delays, as this is a significant contributor to stubbornly high ambulance response times for life-threatening emergencies, like heart attacks and strokes. 

Backlogs 

Measures to reduce the vast backlog of care, including heart care, include delivering up to 160 new community diagnostic centres.  
 
These hubs are designed to carry out an extra nine million tests, scans and checks a year by March 2025.  

It’s expected that these centres will also be able to carry out cardiovascular checks, which could help to reduce waiting times. However, it’s vital that there are enough doctors, nurses and other specialist staff like echocardiographers to deliver this care. 

We have yet to hear concrete plans on how the Government will reduce the ever-growing number of people waiting for elective care, including cardiovascular care. 
 
Latest NHS England figures reveal that the number of people on cardiac waiting lists grew to a record 337,706 at the end of July in England. 

Care 

The Government will invest £500 million to support discharge from hospital into the community and bolster the social care workforce to free up beds for patients who need them. 
 
However, it is unclear if this is new investment, or where this funding is coming from. 
 
The funding aims to reduce long ambulance and hospital handover delays, and help tackle the backlog of elective care, but there is not enough detail yet to explain exactly how this will be done.

Doctors  

A key focus of the plan is on driving improvements to GP access. Several measures have been proposed in a bid to free up more GP appointments and improve staff retention, including changes to NHS pension rules that could dissuade experienced NHS staff from taking early retirement.
 
While it is encouraging to see that the Government wants to reduce long waits for GP appointments, the measures outlined today do not sufficiently tackle the root of the problem: a lack of workforce to deliver the vital care patients need. 
 
A fully funded workforce plan is needed now to tackle long waiting times for ambulances, GP appointments and elective care. 

Our comment 

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, our Chief Executive said: “This will be a tough winter for heart patients, and they need to know how their potentially lifesaving care will be delivered on time. Today’s plan did not go far enough to ease their concerns.  
 
“Heart patients can’t wait any longer – delays and disruption to time-critical cardiac care can be a matter of life and death.

“The Government must tackle the NHS workforce crisis now, including the severe staff shortages in cardiac care, to prevent more needless loss of life.” 

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