‘No quick cure’ to current A&E crisis, health secretary Sajid Javid tells NHS leaders


Health secretary Sajid Javid has said there is no “quick cure” to the current A&E crisis, which has seen patients waiting up to 12 hours a day for treatment across the country.

Speaking at an NHS conference, Mr Javid also warned that “the answer to all the challenges that we face … cannot be more money”, as he insisted that continuing increases in healthcare spending are “neither sustainable, desirable or necessary”.

Earlier this week, new figures from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) showed that, in 2021, an average of 1,047 people a day were waiting more than 12 hours in A&E crisis.

Ms Javid told the NHS Confederation Expo, held in Liverpool, that the pandemic was the root cause of the mounting crisis, pointing to how people were now coming forward in record numbers for urgent treatment after staying at home during lockdown.

He said Covid disruption to social care services also meant hospitals were struggling to discharge patients into the community. “That has an impact on the flow of A&E, right through to the entire hospital,” he said.

The health secretary said the government was “doing everything that is conceivably possible” to address the crisis, but admitted there’s “no quick cure for this”.

However, he rejected calls from health chiefs for increased investment into the NHS in the wake of Covid-19. The spending review, published earlier this year, said that Department of Health and Social Care and core NHS spending will rise over the next three years, with NHS funding increasing to £162.6 billion.

To help raise these funds, the government has implemented a 1.25 per cent tax levy on workers, which came into force in April.

Despite pleas from health sector for more money, Mr Javid said: “Growing health spending at double the rate of economic growth over the next decade as I’ve heard some propose is neither sustainable, desirable nor necessary.

“I don’t want my children, anyone’s children, to grow up in a country where more than half of public spending is taken up with healthcare at the expense of everything from education to housing.

“That’s not a fair deal for the British people, particularly young people.

“But demanding spending growth of this kind suggests that we will fail to reduce demand through prevention, early diagnosis and more effective care as well as a fail to increase health and care productivity with improved use of capital, skills, management, data and innovative models of care. I refuse to countenance such failures.”

“My point about money more generally is that the answer to all the challenges that we face in healthcare cannot always be more money. I think it’s essential that we improve productivity.”

Earlier in the day, Amanda Pritchard, chief executive for the NHS, said rise in 12-hour waits within A&E departments was “unacceptable,” adding that the “the situation we see at the moment in emergency departments and ambulance services is as challenging as any winter before the pandemic.

“April was the busiest ever for ambulance services in terms of calls and category one incidents, and the second busiest for accident and emergency departments.”

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