This letter, written at the time of the June 2017 General Election, still says it all. Nothing has changed.
I’m writing to try to make it clear that the currently reported crisis in the NHS and social care is an entirely real and appalling one, which has been building up over several years. The reasons for this are complex, and I’m sorry to see that the current Government and much of the printed media are choosing to shift blame on to (among others) staff, patients, “migrants” and others.
On the whole the real reasons come down to chronic and worsening underfunding, and also waste of time and resources on numerous unhelpful Government-led reorganisations (many of which have also had the effect of moving money out of taxpayer-funded services into the pockets of private business). This was never going to be easy to solve from where we now are, even with the political will to do so, which most of us in the health services now doubt exists. The Department of Health’s public insistence that trying to make staff do more and more with less and less — for instance, with funding cuts disguised as increases by clever tweaking of numbers and, in effect, “robbing Peter to pay Peter” — is a workable way forward is, I’m afraid, deceitful.
I don’t really blame people for believing what they’re told by the Secretary of State for Health via the newspapers, because many of us like to think disasters are being overstated and professionals are incompetent, but I’d beg them to consider other explanations for what is going on. The A&E situation, for example — a build-up of seriously ill patients with no beds to be admitted to and not enough staff to care for them — is not going to be improved by spreading a dwindling number of GP hours for non-urgent ap- pointments over more hours and days.
We already have a “seven-day NHS” for emergencies, with 24-hour hospital staff and GP out of hours cover, but since NHS staff have constantly to prioritise cheapness while keeping quality as high as possible, convenience can’t be as much of an option as we might all like it to be. Clinical commissioning groups, hospital trusts and others have had to keep trying to do their best (apart from anything else, complaining tends to mean losing any shreds of control they might previously have had over the situation) which often means just going along with what they’ve been told to do.
I don’t blame them for doing so, either.
Personally, however, I think nothing now will keep a fair system of health in this country for us unless there is proper investment, perhaps from taxes, and frank discussion about what people really want – and what Government departments are willing to support.
Dr Catherine Cargill
Locum GP, former GP partner in Maldon