Not a day goes by when the NHS is not in the news in one way or another. Often the stories are around an NHS under so much pressure, so short of staff or so short of beds that it cannot safely care for patients. That is why the NHS is making the news – because it is about life and death. Something we all have a vested interest in.
I qualified in 1997 from Sheffield University Medical School and New Labour had just been elected on a landslide. My patients then had to wait 12-18 months for life-saving heart bypass operations. Patients died on the waiting list because they didn’t get their operation on time. By 2010, when New Labour lost the election, my patients waited less than 18 weeks and received treatment so they could live a longer and healthier life.
My reason for explaining this is that politics does matter. Politics has a huge impact on our day-to-day lives and voting is so important. Asking our politicians difficult questions is important too. The news this week from an investigation by Labour saying that 100,000 NHS posts lie vacant chimes many bells with my colleagues and I in the NHS.
Day to day we see empty gaps on rotas as there are not enough GPs, junior doctors, consultants, nurses, radiographers and physios, along with many other roles, to do the work to look after patients. The knock-on effect of this is that waiting times increase and patients get frustrated at long queues in hospital clinics or surgeries.
Staff are under such huge pressure, working flat out, that they become more and more demoralised and upset that they can’t properly do the job they were trained to do. Some staff just can’t continue and throw the towel in – leaving the NHS many years earlier than they would have done if it had been properly looked after. Their long experience is lost to the NHS and ultimately lost to the patients they would have looked after.
The spin and misinformation from the Government is spewed forth on a daily basis and I don’t know any NHS worker who believes the likes of Jeremy Hunt or Theresa May when they say “there are more doctors and nurses than ever before in the NHS” – the facts just do not back this up and show the usage of spin by government. In my own specialty of general practice, we are worryingly short of GPs, with many surgeries one or two GPs down, leaving those working to cover even more patients with subsequent stress levels rising considerably.
We are woefully short of hospital beds, leaving patients stuck in a hospital car parks in the back of an ambulance. GP colleagues are having to wait longer and longer for ambulances for seriously ill patients in their surgeries as shown by recent social media messages from GPs, which include the following:
“90-minute wait for ambulance for 36-week-old with sepsis. Just don’t have the words”.
“We nearly ran out yesterday after a 3-hour wait. And had an asthmatic child who waited 6 hours. Used ALL our oxygen when the ambo miraculously arrived”.
We also now see the emergence of a new role in hospitals – that of the “corridor nurse”. Due to the ridiculous lack of beds (due to funding cuts) nurses now care for patients in corridors so that ambulances can leave for the next emergency. Many members of the public are unaware of this because the Government is keen to keep quiet about such gross failures on its part.
In 2018 let us hope the NHS receives the funding it deserves so that staff numbers can be increased to look after patients safely and in a timely fashion. It is incumbent on us all to challenge our MPs on the true facts over the NHS and I urge you to do so via this very simple online system.
Dr David Wrigley is a GP in Lancashire and chair of Doctors in Unite
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