GP surgery
GP surgery

A blog by Gareth Wright – 30 years in the NHS and never seen it this bad

There’s been quite a bit of coverage in the press recently about troubles in the NHS.

Just this week, one newspaper described the NHS as “bloated”. They went on to quote “tax experts” warning about “pouring money into the bottomless pit of the NHS”.

Those “tax experts” are the Tax Payers’ Alliance. One of whose core values is “We spend our own money better than bureaucrats and politicians”. Forgive me for thinking that means that they prefer a pay-as-you-go service for those with money and tough luck on the rest.

Fortunately, the majority disagrees.

A recent report by the charity ‘Engage Britain’ found that three quarters of people say the NHS makes them proud to be British. And 7 out of 10 know the NHS is underfunded.

I see what happens at Addenbrookes. We’re in public service so naturally we do as much as we can to meet patients’ needs.  Staff work longer hours which raises stress levels, colleagues quit and this increases the pressure on those remaining.

Just this summer in England, over 1000 doctors have quit, unable to take the pressure any longer.  There are 100,000 vacancies in the NHS. And that’s before we go into the tough winter season.

Covid has made things worse, but the crisis has been building for a decade. True, every year more is spent on the NHS. But every year the population grows and ages. And new treatments come on board.

Since the NHS was created, investment has risen on average by 4% a year. More with Labour. Less under the Tories and much less since 2010 – either with Tories ruling alone or the Tory/LibDem coalition. That’s where the problem is.

Not enough new clinical staff are being trained and many EU colleagues returned to mainland Europe after the referendum. Eventually no matter how tirelessly we work, cracks and gaps in the service show. Waiting lists grow. Some treatments are restricted or stopped altogether.

No wonder that one in five report being forced to go private. Using precious savings or taking on debt to pay the bills. Many can’t afford it but they can’t continue to wait in pain.

We are at a crunch point. The Government has sent more taxpayers money than ever to the private health sector rather than investing in the NHS. With the Social Care Bill they are enshrining the principle of user pays.

Be on your guard, it won’t be long before we see private care as the only option being introduced for a wide range of services.

I believe that everyone is entitled to the treatment that they need at the time that they need it and free at the point of use. The founding principle of the NHS.



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