Doctors take to social media to expose depth of NHS crisis

Doctors are turning to Twitter to warn that NHS pressures are putting patients at risk of harm, after accusing the government of trying to brush off long-term capacity problems as short-term winter pressures.

Dr Zoe Norris (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dr Zoe Norris (Photo: JH Lancy)

For the past week, GPC sessional GP subcommittee chair Dr Zoe Norris has been tweeting anonymous quotes from GP and hospital colleagues alike who are too afraid to raise their own concerns.

Her tweets, tagged #NHSPressure, reveal that many feel they can 'no longer deliver' safe care as pressures on hospitals reach dangerous levels. 

‘[They] are desperate but feel they can’t speak out,’ she told GPonline. ‘That’s an indictment on all of Jeremy Hunt’s promises about patient safety and whistleblowing. He constantly refers to Mid-Staffs but only when it fits the agenda.’

She said the overwhelming responses indicated doctors are working under ‘a sense of fatalism’ and that many are ‘profoundly sad about what the NHS has become’.

The #NHSPressure Twitter campaign comes as NHS England announced all non-urgent inpatient elective care should be deferred until after the end of January in order to free up services for emergency care.

But Dr Norris and others on the social media platform say the problems facing the NHS are not simply the result of short-term winter pressures increasing demand – but a consequence of long-term ‘neglect of the health service’.

‘I want to try and make this about more than a bad week or two because of flu and Christmas,’ she said. ‘That is simply not true; we have all known the neglect of the health service has been a slow-burning disaster.

‘When the chancellor refused to give the funding that Simon Stevens at NHS England said was needed, and with no progress on retention of GPs, there should be no excuses. This is the fault of the Treasury, the DH and Theresa May.

‘People are finishing shifts in tears, utterly defeated and terrified for their patients. This isn’t how any of us want to practice medicine.’

A DH spokeswoman said: 'We know the NHS is extremely busy – as it always is at this time of year – but hardworking staff are taking the necessary steps to make sure patients continue to get seen as quickly as possible.

'Our NHS was recently ranked as the best and safest healthcare system in the world, and the government is supporting it this winter with an additional £437m as well as £1bn extra social care funding this year.'

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