Lack of funding and staff in the UK hinders patient care

Doctors across the UK are leading innovative approaches to patient care but are blocked from developing their projects further by lack of funding and staff according to a new publication launched today (3 June) by the BMA.

A to Z of Doctors Making a Difference is a selection of 44 case studies demonstrating how doctors across the UK are pushing ahead with new projects to improve services for their patients. New medical treatments, better access and choice for patients and novel schemes to reduce waiting are among the latest initiatives.

The publication, which has a foreword by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, provides a snapshot of some of the pioneering work that doctors and their teams are carrying out in hospitals, health centres and GP surgeries all over the UK, including:

  • Dr Ann Sullivan and her team from the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital have set up a project to increase HIV testing in local African communities
  • GPs are working with consultant gynaecologist Mr Nick Panay to ensure women with gynaecological problems are seen by a doctor in just a couple of weeks rather than waiting months for an appointment
  • Dr Richard Haigh a consultant at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital has fought for the introduction of arthritis drugs to treat some of his patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis. Although expensive, taking the drugs early on can help avoid painful and costly joint replacement in the future
  • Frustrated by lack of funding, Durham consultant Dr Bill Lamb has become a tireless fundraiser, running hundreds of miles in marathons to get enough money for his young diabetic patients to have much needed insulin pumps
  • Dr Andrew Hamilton, a GP from the Shetland Islands targets unhealthy men by offering free tickets to a special dinner if they attend one of his health clinics or a fitness session

What is clear from the report is that with extra resources, thousands more patients could benefit from such innovative schemes. Interviews with the doctors reveal that nine out of 10 wish to extend their initiative in the future, yet four out of five face barriers that prevent them from developing their projects further. Just over half (57%) of the doctors face funding difficulties and one in three report a lack of staff stopped them from extending their service.

Doctors are not short of ideas that could easily be put into practice. The BMA would urge the Government to involve doctors when making decisions on how new money for the NHS should be spent.

On launching the A to Z of Doctors Making a Difference, Mr James Johnson, BMA Chairman said: "We take you through the letters of the alphabet to highlight the innovative approaches doctors are taking to improve services for their patients. What is clear from these examples is that doctors are not standing still and accepting the status quo. They are continually searching for new ways to give patients faster and more accessible high quality diagnosis and treatment.

"A recurring theme throughout the report is how much more doctors could do for their patients with extra resources. The NHS has benefited from significant investment in recent years but only sustained and targeted funding will ensure that any new money delivers further improvements.

"We urge the Government to talk to doctors not accountants. We've got good examples of what works and doctors are eager to explore new ways of delivering high quality care for patients. Doctors must be involved in deciding on how any new money for the NHS should be spent."

The A to Z of Doctors Making a Difference can be accessed on the BMA website at http://www.bma.org.uk/ap.nsf/Content/AtoZofDocs

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