Once again the NHS is struggling to cope with winter demand. Once again ambulances are backed up. Once again hospital trusts have declared a major incident. Once again patients are waiting for long periods on trolley and are being turned away after waiting months for non-urgent operations.
According to reporting from National newspapers and websites, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt finally admitted recently that there were ‘real pressures’ on the Health Service, causing many hospitals to struggle. However, he failed to concede that the NHS was now at crisis point. Instead, Hunt attributed the ‘real pressures’ to the seasonal ‘busiest time of the year’.
This position seems to be the agreed party line, as his boss Prime Minister Theresa May also continues to deny that the NHS is in crisis. Rather, both Hunt and May are spinning the cancellation of routine operations as evidence that the Health Service is better prepared for winter than at any time in the past.
Stephanie Prior,a specialist medical negligence lawyer at Osbornes Law examines the recent NHS crisis and looks at what could help solve the issues and at the same time ensure patients continue to receive the highest standard of care.
Crisis ? What Crisis?
So the position taken by Hunt and May is that there is no crisis within the NHS and the added pressure is purely down to the time of year. This position is disingenuous. The true reason behind the buckling NHS is the history of chronic underfunding on the back of cuts to the Health and Social Care budget. As Dr Anthea Mowat of the British Medical Association told the Independent, ‘The NHS is in the grips of another winter crisis. Short-term fixes[…] will only get us so far. Each winter the pressure on the NHS worsens, and politicians are not taking the long-term view needed to ensure the NHS can keep up with rising demand’.
Going back over the politics of last year, it is worth noting that Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England requested £4 billion funding from the Government but was denounced by politicians as crying wolf. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond told the BBC that people running, ‘government departments [… come to us…] with very large numbers that are absolutely essential otherwise Armageddon will arrive’. On the back of this statement, he allocated less than half of the money requested by Stevens for the NHS – just £1.6 billion.
The Caring Party
This callous attitude towards the NHS certainly flies in the face of Theresa May’s vision of the Tories as a ”caring” party. It is not as if this situation came out of the blue. We need only go back as far as January 2107, for reports of overcrowded hospitals and long waits for treatment. Then, Jeremy Hunt who had been Health Secretary for four years, condemned the conditions in the NHS as unacceptable while at the same time refusing to acknowledge his responsibility in the matter. He instead shifted blame to the very people who were keeping the ship afloat, including GPs whom he criticised as working within a ‘nine to five culture’. In his 9th of January 2017 statement to the House of Commons he even implicated the patients themselves, claiming that they were misusing the service: he said that the public should be clear about the purpose of Accident and Emergency Departments and that the NHS England estimates that 30% of attendees were presenting there unnecessarily.
The Simple Solution From Real Experts
Time and time again, politicians minimise the problems within the NHS. By refusing to acknowledge a crisis as a crisis, they do not have to provide meaningful and real solutions. Instead, by undermining the staff and criticising patients, they contribute to the crushing effect on an already fragile Health Service.
Representatives of NHS staff are clear: the NHS is in crisis and not just during winter. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine reported to the British Medical Journal that the 2017 crisis had been ongoing for months previously, with an average of 88% bed occupancy ( above the recommended safety limit) and some health trusts meeting the 4 hour waiting target only 50% of the time. Taj Hassan, the President of the College stated in the journal article that, ‘ A correction to the funding of both the NHS and social care has never been more vital’ and that planned cuts, ‘ if carried through, would be potentially catastrophic’. In the same article, the Royal College of Physicians were reported to have written of their concerns to Theresa May, claimed that hospitals were ‘over-full, with too few qualified staff’ and that ‘services were struggling or failing to cope’.
So the upshot is this of it all is this. While the politicians in charge continue to deny that the NHS is in trouble, in order to justify continued under-resourcing, the people who are affected directly – NHS staff and users of the service – continue to suffer. The NHS advocates will continue to express concern and the politicians will continue to pretend that they are all crying wolf. In this way, the issues at the heart of the NHS crisis will remain unresolved, perpetuating crisis after crisis in ever-increasing circles.
At Osbornes Law we care about how you are treated both by medical professionals at your GP surgery or at hospital and also under the care of private providers of health services. If you think that the care you or a loved one has received fell below the standards expected of a reasonably competent professional, then please do not hesitate to contact Partner and specialist medical negligence lawyer Stephanie Prior on 020 7681 8671.