Tuesday 21 August 2018

Seventy years of the National Health Service – will we see another seventy?

The National Health Service has been serving the UK for 70 years, and in that time it has touched the lives of most, if not all, who live in this great country. It was lovely to see the recent celebrations, and I have heard many moving stories. From cradle to grave the NHS cares, and whilst no-one will pretend it is perfect, most will have good things to say about the doctors, nurses and other health professionals who give so much and work so hard.

I have seen a lot of the NHS over the last couple of years, and as a parent it was there to help deliver my children. I can say that my personal experience has been mostly good, although we can all see that improvements can be made.

However, continuous improvement is one thing, wholesale changes driven by fiscal demands are another.

We live in a wealthy country, a country that is one of the major economic powerhouses. Yet, sometimes healthcare, especially when a government whose priority is austerity (eight years and counting), falls short. A government intent on an agenda of cuts, cuts and yet more cuts, is not one to trust with looking after the NHS.

For instance, the current STP process suggests that receptionists will undertake an element of triage.

This is discombobulating enough. Worse though is the likelihood of this triage aspect to expand – especially as the bean counters who seem to run the world nowadays will see this as another way to cut costs (never mind what this means for the patients). Aside from anything else, the sick often want reassurance and I am doubtful whether this can come from anyone but a health professional. One dreads to think what mistakes could be made – doctors get it wrong sometimes, the untrained are bound to more prone to mistakes.

I won’t be around to see another 70 years of the NHS, and yet I hope I can have the expectation that such a milestone will be reached.

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St Luke's Voice Winter 2018/19 edition