NHS in crisis: Nearly one MILLION people a week are consulting their pharmacist because they can’t see GP – as surgery waiting lists hit 4.3M with experts fearing it will TRIPLE by 2030
- New figures reveal 865,000 people per week consulted with pharmacist in 2021
- This compares to 600,000 patients in 2020, says latest Pharmacy Advice Audit
- Patients are turning to pharmacists when they cannot access GP appointment
- Elsewhere, new study suggests 4.3 million people are awaiting invasive surgery
- Authors say UK could be heading for ‘population health crisis’ without funding
Soaring numbers of patients are turning to pharmacists for help after failing to get a GP appointment, while waiting lists for people awaiting invasive surgery could triple by 2030 amid rising concerns the UK is heading for a ‘population health crisis’.
On average, 865,000 people per week consulted with a pharmacist this year, compared to 600,000 in 2020 – a rise of 44 per cent.
The latest figures from the Pharmacy Advice Audit, commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), also estimate pharmacies will host 65 million informal consultations this year – an increase from 58 million in 2021 and 52 million in 2020.
Of those who took part in the audit, 80.3 per cent said they chose to use a pharmacy as their first port of call, a rise from 76 per cent last year.
Soaring numbers of patients are turning to pharmacists for advice after failing to speak to a GP or get an appointment, a new survey has revealed
PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison told The Sunday Telegraph that without pharmacies, the ‘NHS simply could not cope.’
Dennis Reed, from campaign group Silver Voices said it was ‘unsatisfactory’ that patients are turning to pharmacists, because they are unable to speak to their GP or get an appointment.
He said: ‘There are [a] few simple ailments where it might be just as appropriate to go to a pharmacists, but, at the end of the day, a pharmacists is trained to do pharmacy – they are not GPs.’
The latest concerns over healthcare access coincide with fears over surgery waiting lists tripling by 2030.
An in-depth analysis from Birmingham University reveals 4.3 million people need invasive surgery or procedures such as endoscopy – the biggest number seen since 2007.
Of these, 3.3 million are thought to be on a ‘hidden waiting list’, people who require treatment, but have yet to be processed through the NHS system because of delays caused by the pandemic.
As the NHS crisis deepens, official statistics show that one in nine people (6.48million) were queuing for elective operations such as hip and knee replacements and cataracts surgery by April — up from the 6.36m stuck in March. There are now 323,093 who have been waiting for more than a year for their operation, up 5.5 per cent, and 12,735 have been seeking treatment for more than two years, down by a quarter
The report’s authors warn this number could rise to 14.6 million by 2030, because current efforts to decrease waiting times are ‘not enough’.
An additional £9.2bn and a hefty 50% increase in activity across the NHS could help turn the situation around, the report adds.
The study’s lead author, Aneel Bhangu, 40, a senior lecturer in surgery at Birmingham University and consultant colorectal surgeon at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, told The Sunday Times: ‘The percentage increase in activity required per year to combat that, bearing in mind the needs of the population, is impossible from a frontline point of view.’
An in-depth analysis from Birmingham University reveals 4.3 million people need invasive surgery or procedures such as endoscopy – the biggest number seen since 2007
Public health registrar Dmitri Nepogodiev, 33, who co-authored the research, added: ‘Some people will be able to get to work and continue with their normal activities but there will be a proportion of these patients, because they are delayed in getting their treatment, who will have worsening symptoms and a worsening quality of life and that will have a big knock-on effect.’
More than 2.3 million people, more than half of the waiting list identified, are of working age.
Earlier this month, official figures revealed that the number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment in England had skyrocketed to 6.48million.
One in nine people were queuing for elective operations such as hip and knee replacements and cataracts surgery by April — up from 6.36m in March.
There are now 323,093 patients who have been waiting at least a year for their op, up 5.5 per cent.
Meanwhile, 12,735 have been stuck on the list since before Covid reached Britain in early 2020, down by a quarter.
The number of children on NHS waiting lists has also passed 350,000 for the first time – after rising by 100,000 in just a year, figures show.
Separate data on A&E performance in May shows a 19,053 people were forced to wait 12 hours or more to be treated, three times longer than the NHS target. The figure is a fifth lower than last month. Less than three-quarters of patients were seen within the four-hour target of arriving at emergency departments, a slight recovery from last month but the third-lowest rate ever recorded
Experts warn that long waits are particularly harmful for youngsters as it can impair their mental and physical development at a critical time of life. But only 65.4 per cent of under-18s are being treated within the 18-week target and 12,000 have been waiting for more than a year.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has promised to axe all one-year-plus waits to zero by 2025, utilising the 1.25 per cent National Insurance hike which will raise the health service a extra £30billion over the next three years.
WHAT DO THE LATEST NHS PERFORMANCE FIGURES SHOW?
The overall waiting list has jumped to 6.48million. This is up from 6.36m in March and is the highest number since records began in August 2007.
There were 12,735 people waiting more than two years to start treatment at the end of April, down from March but five-times more than April 2021.
The number of people waiting more than a year to start hospital treatment was 323,093 in April, up from 306,286 the previous month.
Some 19,053 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England in May. The figure is up from 24,138 in April.
A total of 122,768 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission in April, down slightly from 131,905 in March.
Just 73 per cent of patients were seen within four hours at A&Es last month. NHS standards set out that 95 per cent should be admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour window.
The average category one response time – calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries – was eight minutes and 36 seconds. This is 26 seconds faster than April but 96 seconds slower than the seven-minute target.
Ambulances took an average of 39 minutes and 58 seconds to respond to category two calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes. This is 11 minutes and 24 seconds quicker than one month earlier but more than double the 18-minute target.
Response times for category three calls – such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes – averaged two hours, nine minutes and 32 seconds. This is down from two hours, 38 minutes and 41 seconds in April. Ambulances are supposed to arrive at nine in 10 category three calls within two hours.
Some 389,855 patients people were waiting more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in March, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy.
The equivalent number in March 2021 was 305,061 (24 per cent of the total), while in March 2020 there were 85,749 (10 per cent).
Some 439,306 patients queuing for one of 15 key diagnostic tests — including MRI scans and ultrasounds — were forced to wait longer than six weeks, 28 per cent of all waiters.
The figure is worse than one month earlier, when 310,802 (24 per cent of those in the queue) were waiting more than six weeks.
Government plans set out that 95 per cent of patients should receive it within six weeks by March 2025.
Despite the Covid-induced backlog worsening yet again, response times in A&E and for ambulances improved slightly, though critics say more still needs to be done.
More than 19,000 patients attending casualty units were still forced to wait 12 hours or more to be given a bed, in conditions described by experts as ‘inhumane’. This was down by a fifth on the previous month — but emergency medics say NHS England figures are a ‘gross under-representation’ of the actual crisis.
Fewer than three-quarters of patients were seen within the four-hour target of arriving at overwhelmed emergency departments, a slight recovery from last month. This was still the third-lowest rate ever recorded.
Ambulance crews continued to arrive late, on average, to callouts for all types of illnesses or injuries, even though response times were faster than last month. Doctors say that ‘urgent action’ is needed to tackle to prevent patients dying unnecessarily.
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