Intended for healthcare professionals


Political crisis in the NHS

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 17 January 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j218
  1. Chris Ham, chief executive
  1. King’s Fund, London, UK
  1. C.Ham{at}

The government should heed the warning signs and embark on fundamental reform

The real NHS crisis is political not humanitarian. Politicians of all parties have failed to provide sufficient funding for health and social care, with predictable and sometimes distressing consequences.

Hospitals are struggling to meet rising demands from a growing and ageing population, and most are failing to hit the four hour waiting time target in emergency departments. Patients are being cared for on trolleys in corridors, and this is compromising patient safety—sadly illustrated by reports of the death of patients in Worcester.1

The challenges facing hospitals result from failure to invest sufficiently in services in the community to provide care in people’s homes and help them remain independent. General practices, district nursing, and social care have all been affected, resulting in patients attending hospital because of the lack of appropriate alternatives. Many of these patients could be cared for out of hospital if community services were properly funded and staffed.

Social care is in the eye of the storm, with the number …

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