HEALTH: Invest for the long-term

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With winter approaching, health professionals in the North East will be nervous about what lies in store.

The announcement by the Health Secretary at the Conservative Party Conference of an extra £240million for social care this winter will go some way towards easing pressure on frontline services.

Of course, this is just a short-term fix.

As experienced in the chaos of last winter, adequate staffing and capacity in social care is a vital part of relieving pressure in the NHS.

Patients can be discharged from hospital in a timely manner, making more beds available for the increasing numbers of people accessing care.

Given, however, the significant impact of decades of cuts to social care across the country – down eight per cent in real terms in England since 2010 – this by no means offers the comprehensive remedy.

If we are to stop the last-minute fire-fighting and put an end to what is now the normal crisis mode of winter, the Government must provide the necessary long-term investment.

Only then will we begin to see the type of change that is necessary to relieve year-round pressures on services and enable sustained improvements to patient care.

Dr George Rae

BMA North East Regional Council Chairman