The UK’s public health system is facing a major crisis as the NHS is facing an unprecedented surge in patients coming into the country after the coronavirus pandemic.
A large number of new cases have been recorded across the country, and a surge in the number of deaths is threatening to push the total to 10,000 this year.
A new study by Oxford University’s health sciences department found that more than half of all NHS trusts in England were failing to keep up with the number and number of people coming to their doors.
“There are a lot of people who have been waiting for care for many, many years,” said Professor Helen Bremner, lead author of the report.
“It is a huge, huge problem.”
The NHS is already facing a £1.5 billion financial crisis, and the NHS Foundation Trust (NUT) is facing its biggest financial crisis in its history, as the trust’s £9.6 billion budget is set to run out of money within six months.
The government’s £100 million annual funding cut to the NHS was announced last week, and it has yet to be passed into law.
The report, published today by the Oxford University Health Sciences Centre (OUCHC), analysed the financial situation of the NHS trusts across the UK, and concluded that they are in serious financial trouble.
The majority of trusts are struggling to keep the population numbers up, and with the numbers of patients expected to rise, this could increase the number needing hospital care, the report found.
“With the current rate of increase in cases, the NHS has a high probability of having a significant shortage of primary care beds in the coming months,” Professor Bremners study found.
The NHS has had a very hard time attracting new patients, with fewer than 500,000 new patients entering the country each week, according to the Office for National Statistics.
This is a figure that has already surpassed the number who entered the country in the past 18 months.
“If the numbers increase, the risk of acute shortages in primary care will increase,” said the report, adding that the government must do more to attract new patients and get more beds.
The Oxford University report also found that the NHS needs to “provide a wider range of care to those most at risk of needing it”.
Professor Breslau said the NHS faces the biggest financial challenge it has faced in the country’s history.
“The NHS has to take care of people at risk,” she said.
“We’re at a point where we have to do what’s best for patients.”
The report concluded that the public health crisis is a result of the Government’s policies, which have “reduced the scope of the public sector, which is a fundamental part of the health system.”
“As a result, we are seeing more and more people coming into care, but the numbers coming in are declining,” said Prof Bresmier.
The public health impact of the pandemic has been felt by the NHS in particular, with the report highlighting a number of measures which are being taken to help manage the growing numbers of people arriving in hospitals.
The Government is also planning to reduce the number in care by 20 per cent over the next five years.
A reduction in numbers will also mean that more and longer-term care is available, as well as increased funding for the health services.
“As long as the public are getting better at keeping the public in care, we’re not going to have a crisis,” said Dr Andrew Davies, professor of health policy and director of the Health Security Policy Centre at the University of Oxford.
“But if you take the worst case scenario, you could see a crisis as we speak.”
The government is now looking at introducing a cap on how many people can be admitted to hospitals in the UK per year, which would cut the number that the healthcare system can take in, and increase its reliance on hospital trusts.
The Health Security policy centre is currently considering a number, including a cap of 10,500 admissions per year for the first five years, but there is no clear timetable.
In a statement, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said: “We must do everything we can to keep our hospitals safe and keep our people in their homes, and we will do all we can, to get the numbers under control.”
He said the Government was working with NHS Trusts and other partners to “tackle the acute shortages that are being seen across the health service, which are impacting on the NHS’s ability to meet demand and the quality of our services.”