Top Ad 728x90

Saturday, January 21, 2017

UK: The NHS in crisis

The NHS in crisis

We should have reached the tipping point by now, said Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. Usually, during a major NHS crisis, “prime ministers crumple when people die – as they have in the Royal Worcester Hospital’s corridors”. When doctors describe conditions as the worst they’ve ever seen, when patients on trollies pile up in A&E departments, when the Royal College of Surgeons protests at the cancellation of cancer operations, you would expect the Government to take swift action. But no, Theresa May is “not for turning”. Instead, we’ve had a “flamethrower of blame from Westminster”. The system, says the PM, needs “reform”, not more money. Patients have been criticised for clogging up hospitals with minor complaints, GPs for not pulling their weight, managers for not managing better.

May is quite right, said Russell Hopkins in the Daily Mail. The “real cause of the crisis” is the breakdown in GP services. Thanks to Labour’s absurdly generous 2004 contract, allowing doctors to duck out of out-of-hours services, “too many GPs have become unresponsive and unavailable”. And because many GPs now choose to work part-time, even the core weekday hours are not always covered: 46% of practices in England close at some point during these times. As a result, A&E is flooded by people who should have seen their local doctor. Be honest, said Philip Stephens in the FT. The NHS is run on a shoestring, and “the shoestring has broken”. Funding may be rising in real terms, as May protests. But Britain spends about 30% less per person than Germany. And “the budget is shrinking as a share of national income, at a time when a growing and ageing population, increased longevity, an epidemic of chronic diseases such as diabetes, and higher expectations for health care, are generating ever-rising demand”. Deep cuts to social care since 2010 have transferred an additional burden to the NHS, with many elderly people in need of care “clogging hospital beds”.

An “iron law of politics” applies here, said Philip Collins in The Times. In any such argument, “it is more than likely that both sides are right”. Demand is indeed racing ahead of resources: the NHS needs a 7% yearly increase in funding just to stand still. But if we are to save the health service, things will have to change. Many general hospitals will have to close, in favour of more efficient specialist units. GPs and minor injury units will have to take the strain off A&E. Some privatisation will be necessary. Real improvements will require an “ideological compromise”, said The Guardian.  “Labour will have to concede that problems in the NHS are not simply a manifestation of wicked Tory austerity.” And the Tories must “stop pretending that adequate resources are available”, and stump up more cash. Unfortunately, for the time being, the gap between the parties appears “unbridgeable”. Corbyn needs the NHS as a stick “for beating the Government”. Theresa May seems determined to “deny the problem”. So instead of a solution, expect more political “trench warfare

0 commentaires:

Post a Comment

Top Ad 728x90