Comment Writer Natalia Carter conducts a survey to determine whether sex education in the UK is satisfactoryWritten by Natalia Carter on 23rd March 2018
Is The NHS in Crisis? … Again?
Comment Writer Rahim Mohamed argues more needs to be done in order secure our National Health System
Another year, another winter crisis in the NHS.
Well, not according to Jeremy Hunt who refused to use the word ‘crisis’ to describe the 55,000 postponed operations (in a single month) and the 17,000 patients forced to wait in ambulances until beds could be made available.
It’s no surprise therefore that the news of Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle, which not only saw Mr Hunt maintain his position as Secretary of State for Health but also an increase in his remit to include social care, was met with incredulity.
“Patients no longer see the NHS as an institution able to meet their needs; long waiting times have resulted in more people looking to the private sector for treatment
However, the problems now faced by the NHS are far greater than just one individual.
Patients no longer see the NHS as an institution able to meet their needs; long waiting times have resulted in more people looking to the private sector for treatment. Subsequently, private hospitals ‘are experiencing 15 to 25% year-on-year rises in the number of uninsured’ patients.
Even so, to place the spotlight solely on patients and the inadequate treatment that they are receiving only paints half the picture. The demands on NHS staff have stretched them to breaking point. Junior doctors, for example, have it extremely rough; in 2016, only half completed their foundation training and pushed on directly into speciality training. Also notable (in the same year) were the 13% that chose to take a career break while 12.7% left the country to work abroad, both of these percentages have been increasing over the last few years.
“The demands on NHS staff have stretched them to breaking point
Some studies demonstrate how the stress and fatigue associated with the job impact on the lives of junior doctors outside of hospital, ‘one showing that of the top ten occupations associated with being involved in car accidents, nine were within the health service – with surgeons coming top of the list.’
So, what is to be done?
The obvious response would be to get Mr Hunt and the Conservatives to open the coffers, throw more money at the problem and hope it goes away. A nice idea, especially because NHS funding has lagged behind demand since 2010 and given that the public has showed a willingness to pay a bit more tax to help.
Staff shortages in the short term need to be addressed. It takes 6-7 years to train a doctor – more are needed now at a time when demand for health services are still increasing. Incentives need to be given to doctors training in the UK to stay in the UK, while more will have to be recruited from outside the UK.
Other suggestions have been bandied around that will certainly alleviate pressure on the NHS in the long run. These include public health and prevention measures, a more active role for GPs, using technology to more efficiently and effectively treat patients, better social care, improving patient flow so they can gain access to beds and then be moved on in a timely manner so other patients don’t have to wait in ambulances…
All good in theory but three questions emerge, the last of which is most poignant: will Jeremy Hunt make the funds available? Will Jeremy Hunt allocate these funds appropriately to make best use of them? Is it too late?
The answer to the last of these may well be yes, but the Conservative Party won’t consider opening this can of worms if they can avoid it. It would be too easy a target for Labour to criticise and is the kind of subject that would have a significant bearing on the outcome of the next election.
“All good in theory but three questions emerge, the last of which is most poignant: will Jeremy Hunt make the funds available? Will Jeremy Hunt allocate these funds appropriately to make best use of them? Is it too late?
Unfortunately, this only further delays key discussion necessary to getting our health service back on track, so much so that the next big debate won’t be how to save the NHS in its current form, but how to restructure it altogether. In all likelihood, this would mean a greater role for private industry and with it, an end to free healthcare at the point of use.
Perhaps this is a serious discussion we should be having now.