NHS won’t survive unless politicians, unions & the public stop blocking reform
WHILE the Prime Minister rearranges deckchairs in the cabinet office, the titanic task of “fixing” the NHS remains on the back burner.
Covid took it to boiling point, but now it’s back simmering in its own juices of mismanagement, financial waste and unacceptably long waiting lists.
This week, it was announced that management consultancy firm McKinsey has opened a “review” into why, despite higher NHS budgets and more staff, the number of patients being treated has stayed resolutely the same.
Just what we need.
An expensive, navel-gazing exercise to tell us what we already know — that the NHS desperately needs root and branch reform.
In 1948, its first ever patient was 13-year-old Sylvia Diggory in Manchester.
She had a serious liver condition, her parents couldn’t afford the treatment she needed and, if it wasn’t for the NHS, she could have died.
This year, from January to July, around 12,000 patients died unnecessarily after facing a long wait in A&E.
So, will the new Health Secretary Victoria Atkins be the one to sort out this expensive mess?
After all, there’s a general election looming and every time any ruling party so much as mentions change to the NHS, their political opponents scream blue murder and make emotive “leave our angels alone” statements in a cynical point-scoring exercise.
Yes, NHS staff all over the country are doing a sterling job, but the system they are operating in is broken and pretending otherwise is doing no one any favours.
A couple of weeks ago my mother fractured three ribs in a fall and we ended up in the maniacally busy A&E department of St George’s hospital in South London.
From the vantage point of a cubicle in the triage area, I was able to observe what the largely young (and very pleasant) staff have to deal with on a nightly basis.
And it’s not pretty.
Two doors away there were two prison guards keeping watch over a cubicle that held God knows who, while next to them was a couple of police officers with a man who, judging by his pulverised face, had been in a fight.
Opposite, a young woman who was either high or mentally ill, or both, kept leaping off her bed to swing dangerously from the overhead light.
Each time, a medic would go in to coax her down and minutes later she would do it again.
Meanwhile, a dishevelled, clearly drunk or drugged up woman suddenly launched herself on to the floor and started writhing and screaming.
It took five of them to calm her down enough to lift her.
The wonderful, admirably patient staff are trained to save lives, but on this particular night their time was primarily taken up with crowd management.
Bearing in mind that the NHS was created for those in need of medical intervention to allay pain or death, it appears that the remit has drifted somewhat and it is now picking up the slack for critically under-funded social care.
So I suggest that, while she’s still largely unknown and can therefore visit under the radar, Ms Atkins should find a way to enter A&E as an ordinary punter and, Secret Millionaire style, judge for herself what fixes need to be made.
For starters, GPs need to stop hiding behind their computers and get back to seeing patients face to face in one-stop community hubs with nurses, physios and services such as X-rays and ultrasounds to wheedle out those who can be treated without being referred to hospital.
This would help the 76 per cent of elderly who, according to a poll released this week, find it difficult to get a face-to-face appointment with a GP, and the 18 per cent who end up going to their overstretched local A&E for help instead.
For those who are admitted to hospital for an operation, but aren’t yet ready to leave, the return of convalescent homes would free up an acute bed and minimise the risk of them going home too early and suffering a setback.
Other obvious fixes would be more beds in general, more specialised units for mental health care, less top-heavy management, flexible working so you don’t lose female medics when they have babies and better pay and working conditions to maintain experienced staff.
Those staff, in turn, would have the seniority and confidence to cut back on excessive and often unnecessary testing and over-prescribing of medication.
Oh, and somewhere in every hospital where you can drop crutches/zimmer frames you no longer need so they can be disinfected and used again.
These fixes wouldn’t cure all NHS ills, but they would put our health service on the road to recovery.
So the time has come to actually tackle this political football, rather than keep kicking it in to the long grass.
It needs a cross-party political effort to persuade the unions, as well as the public, to accept the reform this ailing institution needs to survive.
For the sake of both NHS patients and its overworked angels.
SKILLS NOT SEX MATTER
CHARITY Endometriosis South Coast is under fire from women’s rights campaigners for appointing a trans woman as its new CEO.
Helen Joyce, director of advocacy at campaign group Sex Matters, says: “Women who have suffered the pain of endometriosis, which is an under-recognised women’s health issue, deserve better.”
But no one expects the CEO of Oxfam to have experienced poverty, do they?
Or the CEO of Guide Dogs for the Blind to actually be blind?
Surely what matters is that Steph Richards has the skillset to run the charity efficiently and, hopefully, ensure that endometriosis doesn’t remain “under-recognised” for much longer.
TORIES AREN’T ON OUR SIDE
FOLLOWING the reshuffle, Tory grandee Michael Heseltine boasts: “We’ve got our party back.”
Which, in a nutshell, highlights why the Tories will lose the next election.
A political party doesn’t belong to the privileged few who want to virtue signal their right-on credentials at swanky soirees among like-minded souls.
It has to appeal to ordinary people who feel that, amid a smorgasbord of Cabinet ministers, there’s someone at the table who speaks for them.
It was primarily the Red Wall voters who gave the Conservatives their 80-seat majority, and it will be the same ones who cast them in to what, after 13 years of infighting and inaction, can only be described as well deserved obscurity.
LAYTON IS STEPS AHEAD ON STRICTLY
LAYTON WILLIAMS’ Argentine tango with partner Nikita Kuzmin on Strictly at the weekend was rightly given a near- perfect score.
It was compelling, beautifully choreographed and, unless you’re Craig Revel Horwood, seemingly faultless.
The 29-year-old is favourite to win, but he has hit back at suggestions he has an unfair advantage because of his previous dance experience in stage shows such as Billy Elliot The Musical.
“Honestly, if I’d auditioned for the Royal Ballet School, they would have laughed me out of the room,” he says.
“My feet don’t point. These hips don’t turn out. I’m a fake-it-till-you-make-it type.”
But perfecting the ballroom steps is just one small part of the Strictly experience, and for complete amateurs (such as Krishnan Guru-Murthy, who went out on Sunday) it’s about quick stepping outside your comfort zone, memorising devilishly complex dance routines and digging deep to find the theatrical performer within you.
All of which Layton already has in his armoury.
That’s fine. After all, it’s an entertainment show.
But let’s not pretend it is a level floor.
UN-APPY AT OUR CHORES
AS if arguments over money aren’t enough, a digital bank called Starling has come up with a chore calculator.
“Track your unpaid housework and see how you compare,” it invites breezily, while pointing out that only 29 per cent of couples share tasks equally.
It adds of the Share The Load tracker: “You can use it to have important conversations about dividing household chores equally.”
In other words, blazing rows.
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