Lack of beds. Deaths. Rota gaps. Coverups. Overworked staff running on vapours. Sound familiar? This is the state of the National Health Service in January 2017 under Theresa May’s Conservative government.
Just today, news broke that a Chief Executive of a major NHS trust in the North of England had been informed not to go to the press with regard to the growing concern of incoming patients, lack of staffing and lack of beds available to treat patients, due to the understanding that Theresa May didn’t want the story to get out.
The underfunding and lack of understanding with regard to properly provisioning the NHS has been an ongoing issue over many years – through both Conservative and Labour government – but has come to a head in recent years under the leadership of Jeremy Hunt.
Under his stewardship the list of achievements and accolades continue to grow with each passing day; the first doctors strike in 40 years, 56,000 whistleblowers raising concerns about various aspects of the NHS, from financial irregularities to rota gaps and the overuse of costly agency staff. Hunt was also the first to announce last year that he would force through the controversial junior contract change and was subsequently taken to court by a group of junior doctors, the result of which was a rowing back of his promise. Just yesterday it was announced that Hunt would abandon the 4 hour window in which new 95% of new patients should be treated in A&E. The list continues to grow.
The NHS is in crisis. Plain and simple. Anyone who tells you otherwise is hiding something, bluffing or – just plainly – moronic.
For the Red Cross to have to step in over the weekend to assist doctors and nurses with patient care and support, and for the Chief Executive to later identify what his staff likened to a ‘humanitarian crisis’ begs the question; is the NHS really in the best hands, but more importantly, what can be done to bring it back from the precipice?
Immediate increase in funding would be a start. Done in an effective manner, this would stop the bleeding short-term. Talking to the doctors and nurses on the frontline and finding out where their concerns are and how best to mitigate against them would help with the mid-term strategy. A complete overhaul in whistleblowing policy would be another positive step in the right direction.
Aside from the bungled Conservative management of the crisis, Labour has been decidedly muted in its public response. As the Guardian columnist Owen Jones commented last night, Labour must have a clear vision backed up by a clear message. The NHS is quickly careering towards a point of no return.
Grown up conversations must take place, in the home, at the office and in the pub across the country and – crucially – in Parliament; do we, as a nation, want to fight for the right to universal healthcare for all, regardless of means or do we want to usher a two-tier or insurance-based system, as the current Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has hinted at in years gone by?
Geo/Socio/Politico will remain a force to shine a light on the NHS, through frank and open discussions with doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals on the frontline, up and down the country, reporting directly from trusted sources. Later this month, we will to host a ‘The NHS: Where Do We Go From Here?’ panel event in Bristol with a range of healthcare workers, experts and others. More information will be available on our Facebook page in due course.
If you would like to read about Sharmila Choudhury’s account of being an NHS whistleblower, please visit, ‘My name is Sharmila. I am an NHS whistleblower‘.
If you would like to contact your Member of Parliament to raise your concerns about the NHS, please use the following gov.uk website. You can search by postcode, constituency or by name.