NHS leaders in England are warning that pressure on the NHS is now unsustainable and patient care and safety are at risk.

A recent poll by the NHS confederation found that roughly nine in 10 (88%) NHS leaders believe demands on their organisation are unsustainable, while nearly the same number (87%) say that a lack of staffing is contributing to this issue, risking patient safety.

For the past three weeks, the NHS Confederation has been urging the government to implement Plan B, warning that pressures were mounting and would soon become intolerable.

The confederation imply we have now arrived at this juncture, saying we have reached a “tipping point” which requires urgent action.

Ensuring effective discharge arrangements are in place

They are particularly concerned about primary care and urgent and emergency care, with record levels of demand on A&E departments, increasing bed occupancy rates and rising levels of patients stuck in hospital beds for longer than necessary due to a lack of domiciliary or care home places.

NHS bosses are now urging the government to provide extra support for social care, primarily by ensuring effective discharge arrangements are in place for those who are fit to live independently.

Currently, one in five beds in some hospitals are occupied by patients who are medically fit to be discharged, but there is no care package available so that they can leave hospital.

The confederation says fixing this should be a top priority for the government, alongside addressing the mounting pressure on GPs, as well as mental health and community services.

NHS funding package should be re-allocated to social care services

Commenting on the findings, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation said the government must take “every step possible” to prevent the NHS from plunging into crisis.

“The number one measure that Ministers could take now is to provide extra funding and support to social care services. This includes making more money available to increase the wages of care assistants to help fill staffing vacancies and to increase their fuel duty allowance so that more care staff are persuaded back into the sector.

“We welcomed the government’s recent extra investment in the NHS, but we cannot immediately buy our way out of this potential crisis due to the 90,000 plus vacancies we are carrying in the NHS. That means it would be better to allocate more immediate funding from the recent funding settlement to social care services as boosting the numbers of care staff will have much greater impact on reducing pressures on hospitals and other parts of the NHS,” he said.

Ambulance leaders and hospital trust bosses have also shared their concerns, saying that the mounting pressures are putting lives at risk.