row broke out on Monday over whether Government plans to fix emergency care would work while the NHS faces a staffing crisis.
Thousands more hospital beds and 800 new ambulances are at the centre of a £1billion proposal to boost floundering urgent health care and bring down excessive waiting times.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday announced the two-year plan for England, which also includes 100 specialist mental health vehicles.
The new strategy aims to keep people away from busy hospitals and instead see them treated at home on “virtual wards”, where they will be monitored at home by doctors using video and other technology.
Same-day emergency care units, staffed by consultants and nurses, will be opened in every hospital with a major A&E unit, Mr Sunak said.
But with more than 130,000 vacancies in the NHS and a wave of upcoming nurse and ambulance strikes, doctors questioned if the service can retain enough staff to put the plans in place.
Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, warned the strategy, “will not work” without more staff.
“We’ve had an unbearable winter with appalling conditions for staff and patients, and the fundamental problem for that has been a significant shortage in workforce, leading to a lack of beds and capacity within urgent and emergency care and throughout the NHS,” he told ITV.
Lib Dem MP and health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper said: “You can’t just announce new ambulances if there is nobody there to staff them.
“When Conservative ministers announce a plan for the NHS, it is not only far too late, but also simply not up to scratch.
“There needs to be an urgent recruitment drive for nurses, paramedics, GPs and care workers. Until that happens, the health and care crisis will not be solved.”
Mr Sunak promised that the plan would deliver “the largest and fastest-ever improvement in emergency waiting times in the NHS’s history”.
Speaking during a visit in Darlington, he said: “We’re going to improve things for patients and make an enormous difference to people up and down the country.”
Health minister Helen Whately today admitted she does not know when the NHS will meet its target of seeing 95 per cent of people who turn up in A&E within four hours,
But she said the target was to see the figure rise from 70 per cent to 76 per cent by the end of the year.
Ms Whately added: “I clearly want to see the service improve beyond that but recognise that that in its own right is a challenging target.”
Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, said she welcomed the Urgent and Emergency care strategy, but added there “are some big questions about where the workforce will be coming from”.
She said: “All eyes will look forward to the Budget now to see whether the Chancellor is going to announce the fully funded and costed workforce plan for the long term that we’ve been asking for for a very long time – because without the workforce, however much capacity we put in place, we can’t actually safely staff it.”