NHS reform is likely to be big on the agenda this election season, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats both proposing their own changes. But what have the effects been of the reforms introduced by the Conservative Party?
New Research points finger at Health Cuts
Researchers from the University of Oxford say that a spike of 30,000 deaths in January 2015 happened due to avoidable problems in the healthcare system. The deaths mostly occurred in the elderly population who are more affected by changes to health and social care. Their research showed a large range of health system failures.
999 and A&E are struggling
Ambulance response times are down, while A&E waiting times are up. Staff absence rates have risen, and more vacancies have remained empty as new staff are not being appointed.
Co-author Professor Danny Dorling from the University of Oxford said: ‘More people will have died earlier as a result of government cut backs.’
Professor Martin McKee, a co-author from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, added: ‘Expenditure had failed to keep pace with demand and the situation has been exacerbated by dramatic reductions in the welfare budget of £16.7 billion.’
A note from the Editor
It is extremely difficult to untangle why the NHS is suffering from so many problems. One on hand you have the increase in demand posed by a growing and aging population. Older people suffer more disease, require more healthcare and are more likely to be admitted to hospital. At the same time, we are seeing the growth of mental health problems, which in turn require at least review if not admission. This government has made no realistic promise to account for this.
Another problem is the lack of social care availability. Often those who are older, or unwell, need assistance outside of hospital when they leave. Due to mass privatization of these services the true cost of housing a patient has skyrocketed. The end result is fewer beds, causing the phenomenon of ‘bed blocking’. This is where patients are stuck in the hospital as they cannot go home and have no assisted space available.
This bed blocking has a knock on effect. More patients in the hospital mean a greater demand on resources, including staff. Moving patients out is necessary to admit new patients, leading to queues in medical units, surgery, and emergency departments. Real-time staff crises in General Practice means more are using emergency services, overwhelming the already overtaxed system.
These problems come down to one clear issue, a lack of resource. If the NHS had more beds, doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and time it would be able to cope. Now here is the crux of the issue. The NHS is not allocated enough to reach demand.
Although the NHS funding has not been cut, it has not been increased to reflect demand. The Kings Fund estimate a 3-4% increase in cost for the NHS per year, a cost that is not being met. For the NHS to thrive it must be adequately funded, and the shortfall is felt in greater waiting lists, delayed operations, increased mortality and lost trust. At the same time, we see healthcare workers pushed beyond their tolerable limits, with a mass exodus a reasonable response from a deplorable lifestyle. I personally knew a doctor who recently committed suicide, and believe me, it’s a growing issue. An escape from a living hell.
I myself debated it in 2016. And came close. More of us have than you know.
We cannot place the blame for the current predicament squarely on the Conservatives, but as the ruling party, they hold responsibility for changing it. Many will blame the Labour government for the NHS problems by their introduction of Private Finance, or the coalition for increasing University fees and reducing new professional intake, or indeed cutting DLA and putting more people in poverty (which correlates with disease.) But for now, the solution lies with the Conservatives. As ruling party, they have the power to change things. As this research shows, they are not.
As a Doctor, if I ignored a patient’s pneumonia because ‘another doctor’ had missed it, I would not be forgiven. I would be struck off and possibly jailed. To quote Uncle Ben, ‘With Great Power, Comes great responsibility’. It’s time this Government, or any, recognize the value of the service given, the lives saved and the reliance held by the people they are sworn to protect.
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Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing. All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of the sample surveyed. An online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice.
Sources and Further Reading
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