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Hidden cuts that could affect patient care

24th September 2010

Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Paul Flynn warns of the risk of “hidden” cuts which could affect the care patients receive.

consultant1Q

Patients are already noticing the impact of the financial crisis on the NHS with an increase in rationing of care, redundancies and recruitment freezes at hospitals.

But possibly more damaging in the long term are the cost-cutting measures that do not immediately appear to target front-line services such as the hidden work of medics.

While I carry out 5-10 operations a week, spend eight hours in clinics and supervise up to 20 deliveries, the time I spend in meetings or the university is just as valuable but hospitals under pressure to make savings have this time “in their cost-cutting sights.”

This is time that helps me keep up with latest developments, conduct research or work on specific projects that may save the trust money in the long term.

But there is evidence, both anecdotal and statistical, that hospitals are arbitrarily reducing this time.

As the most senior clinical staff in hospitals, consultants have a role to play in developing services, improving quality of care or introducing new techniques.

Cutting this protected time for such activities may have serious and long-term consequences and means trusts are not utilising the expertise and reaping the benefits of the experience of their highly-trained staff.

Making consultants work harder is not an example of working smarter. It could lead to the stagnation of the NHS and mean new life-transforming services for patients may never see the light of day.

 

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