The NHS is in the midst of an all-year crisis, leading doctors have warned, with the Government’s recently unveiled cash boost “well short” of what is needed.
The health service lacks beds, doctors and nurses, and is “breaking all the wrong records” as it approaches its 70th anniversary, the British Medical Association council chairman said.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul welcomed Theresa May’s announcement of increased funding for the NHS “after years of denial” but said investment was needed immediately.
It comes as a survey revealed eight in 10 doctors (78 per cent) believe NHS underfunding is significantly affecting quality and safety in the health service.
Addressing the BMA’s annual representative meeting in Brighton, Dr Nagpaul said: “We know the NHS has been systematically and scandalously starved of resources for years.
“It lacks doctors, it lacks nurses, it lacks beds.
“It’s not just the channel that separates us from our European neighbours, but a vast funding gap equating to 35,000 hospital beds or 10,000 doctors. We’re being run ragged.”
He added: “Do you remember when winter pressures only happened in the winter? We now have an all-year crisis.
“Today in Brighton we may be in the midst of summer, but in the NHS it’s still winter.”
Last week, the Government announced the NHS would receive an additional £20 billion a year in real terms funding by 2024.
It is expected that taxes and borrowing will rise to pay for the increase in funding, and resources will be redirected from the more than £9 billion a year the UK currently pays into the EU.
Dr Nagpaul said: “The Prime Minister’s belated and desperately needed announcement of increased NHS funding after years of denial is a positive step.
“But the investment is still well short of what’s needed and we need it now.
“We will continue to campaign to be at parity with our European neighbours.”
Dr Nagpaul warned underfunding was affecting patient safety and “undermining NHS values”.
He said: “It’s shameful that within the statutory duty to make ends meet, some hospitals resort to charging sick patients and relatives more in car parking fees than they’d pay in the high street outside.
“Shameful that NHS England is pressurising GPs to tell patients to buy medications over the counter instead of issuing an NHS prescription.
“Expecting elderly patients, those on low income or chronic debility to start paying for a range of treatments including fungal infection, scabies and eczema.
“And if they can’t afford it, should they just suffer and do without?”
The findings of a BMA survey of almost 8,000 doctors, revealed ahead of the annual meeting, found 74% believed financial targets override patient care.
More than three-quarters (76%) said waiting times for patients and NHS services overall have worsened in the last 12 months, while only 5% agreed staff levels were adequate to support quality.
Meanwhile, 95% of doctors admitted they are fearful of making a medical error, with 55% concerned they will be blamed for errors due to pressures or system failings in their workplace.