The National Health Service in the UK faces many challenges. Some are just an ageing population, a diversity of patients in the 21st Century, the availability of more treatments and modern day expectations. Then there is money. Yes that old chestnut.
The UK Coalition government has proposed reform of the NHS which will see funding reverting back to General Practitioners. This was the way of the NHS sometime ago. It will be a costly exercise to implement such changes. It always is. This means that money which could be better spent on patient care will end up being used for administration and planning. New posts will be created to implement the changes and they will not come cheaply.
Whether the changes will benefit patients or make real savings we will find out in the future. If they don't then it could be another costly exercise to change things once more. And so on it goes.
Already most hospital trusts are having to cut their work forces. Wards have been closed, staff numbers reduced and some services shifted into the private sector. This means that in an emergency situation many cannot cope. They are already working under pressure so an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug, which is ongoing now, can tip services over the edge.
Today there is news once more that the NHS is failing the elderly.
There have been many stories regarding poor health care of the elderly in the UK and the latest is with regard to cancer treatements. The report follows a poll by British cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support. SkyNews reports that:
45% of 155 GPs, oncologists and specialist cancer nurses surveyed said they have dealt with a cancer patient who has been refused treatment on the grounds that they were too old.
Government Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt claims that the government is working with the Macmillan charity in order to address these issues. He accepts that there is still a great deal of work to be done to ensure that tose aged over 70 receive appropriate care. Look online though and you will see stories relating to this have been around for at least a year. That means that whilst Ministers procrastinate lives are lost.
13 years of working in the NHS has shown this blogger that if you work there long enough you will see all reforms come around again. The if it is not broke why fix it scenario never applies. Then when it is broken change is a long time coming.
Elederly patients with cancer tend to end up on Medical Elderly Wards rather than on the modern oncology wards. This is sometimes true of other specialities such as heart failure patients. When there is a bed shortage being moved is acceptable when it is due to an emergency situation. When it is normal practice something must be done.
There may be nothing wrong with a ward you are admitted to but if it does not have the level of care or facilities you need your prognosis will be poor.
Time to cut the management tier at the top of the NHS and reopen wards which are needed with the right staff.
The current government in wanting to move services away from the NHS into the private sector must take responsibility.