Poll: NHS cuts 'affecting care'
Four out of five doctors believe patient care suffered during 2011 because of NHS cutbacks, according to a new survey.
Medics quizzed as part of the Guardian poll said health service cost-cutting has led to fewer hospital beds, increasing pressure on doctors to prescribe cheaper drugs, poorer occupational health support and reductions in community health services.
Doctors.net.uk, a professional networking site for British GPs and hospital doctors, asked users: "Have cuts to staff and/or services affected patient care in your department, area or surgery during the last 12 months?"
Of the 664 doctors who responded, 527 (79%) said yes and 137 (21%) said no.
A total of 359 of 440 hospital doctors said they have seen cuts, along with 168 of the 224 GPs who took part in the poll.
Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association's hospital consultants and specialists committee, said the findings demonstrated how the NHS was "retracting".
He told the Guardian: "The reality is that whether you look at it from the point of view of a doctor, another clinician or a patient, there are NHS cuts ongoing and it adds up to a picture where the NHS is now retracting. The evidence all around us of cuts that are being made adds up to a picture where the Government has failed to deliver on the promises it made to people on coming into office."
Mr Porter said hospitals are under growing financial pressure due to a £20 billion savings drive, while primary care trusts are withholding money to pay for the restructuring that is to take place under Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms. He added that a reduction in trusts' "tariff " payments to hospitals for treating patients has also led to cuts in services.
Dr Tim Ringrose, a spokesman for Doctors.net.uk, said: "We have received reports about across the board budget cuts to essential services, staffing shortages, and pressures to reduce prescribing of newer, potentially more effective therapies. Doctors are very supportive of the drive to improve efficiency in the NHS but don't want to see reductions in access to services or reduced quality to services for patients."
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, added: "These poll findings are very worrying because we were repeatedly assured that when savings were made in the NHS they would not affect patient care. Yet on a daily basis we get evidence through our helpline of services being withdrawn or reduced."