Pippa is a third year medical student at the University of Cambridge. She is a member of the Oncology Society and the vice president of Caius Medical Society She is also a tutor for science, maths, and medical school entrance exams. She writes blogs and is a BMAT Tutor for theMSAG.
It is important that when preparing for your medical school interview that you are knowledgeable about the issues facing the National Health Service (NHS). Through our NHS Hot Topic series of blogs, we are aiming to prepare students for all types of interview questions. Our aim is to give you expert interview preparation that will help you secure your place at a UK medical school. We will be discussing issues such as mental health, the junior doctor contract, strains on A&E departments and much more.
In this blog post, we look at the impact a lack of funding is having on bed occupancy in hospitals. It comes at a time when winter is looming and the pressures on the NHS amount to their seasonal high. The media is only too quick to display images of patients waiting on trolleys in hospital corridors because of the total number of occupied beds, but is this justified? Here we analyse the facts and figures available and the attempts being made to ameliorate the situation.
The general consensus is that healthcare workers need to focus on optimising the beds available. Analysis by the BMA suggests the worst winter ever is about to occur, and thus they are calling for 10,000 extra beds.
Adding to the bed stock is easier said than done. Even if the funding were available, which it seems the government is unable to provide, other problems arise. Many trusts face staff shortages and space constraints. A freedom of information request by the BMA suggests that although some trusts have planned to increase the number of beds, the increases are modest and will certainly not dent the shocking occupancy statistics mentioned earlier. Certainly, there are other ways to deal with the national bed shortage other than simply purchasing more beds. This includes reducing the length of patient stay, improving patient flow, cutting delayed discharges, reducing unnecessary admissions and preventing admission in the first place, e.g. through the winter flu vaccine.
In addition, we can shift the style of care to community-based approaches. This can be through the admission of patients to intermediate care centres, or through care at the patient's home itself. NHS England and the government need to consider all sides of the issue when formulating a plan. The recommendation is to begin by targeting older patients who stay in the hospital for a prolonged period of time, before moving on to other groups.
Public health campaigns have certainly attempted to mediate the situation. The BMA is calling for a short-term plan for this Winter focusing on these strategies and encouraging greater transparency into the bed shortages. In the long term, they wish for NHS England to set out a plan to deal with the situation. The hope is that the devastating effect bed shortages can have is reduced in the future.
We hope that this was a helpful overview of this NHS issue and you feel more confident tackling it if it comes up as a question. Don't hesitate to send us any questions or comments by email at hello@theMSAG.com. Good luck in your interview!
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