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The clue to what the NHS should be providing rests in its title: a service for the people of Britain.
In an ideal world we should be able to receive excellent service from caring, well-trained staff whenever we need it, wherever we need it. I’ve always been inclined to think the best of the NHS, there’s no denying that they do have a tough time – with an ageing population, increased life expectancy and government cuts, the lives of NHS workers are becoming very difficult. I’d like to make it clear before I get to the main point of this article that I’m sure thousands of healthcare staff across the country do a wonderful job every day, but events over the past few months have changed my view about the NHS completely.
What is fundamental to any health service is care – whether it’s administering the correct treatment or just sympathising with the patient’s situation. Yet the evidence against this being the normal state of affairs is overwhelming. 11 trusts nationwide have been put under special measures for failing to provide a satisfactory level of care, resulting in a higher than expected death rate, with another three trusts in danger of ending up in the same situation. Unfortunately for us, a significant number lie in the North West. As well as this, a horrific cover up of baby deaths at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria was recently exposed, which resulted in 30 families taking legal action; it’s impossible to see how this is an example of ‘care’. In fact, it has caused a lot of pain for many people, which is the antithesis of what the NHS is all about.
It’s hard to be objective about our health service. For anyone who has seen a family member receive what is quite frankly appalling care, I completely sympathise. The experience of senior Labour MP Ann Clwyd, whose husband died from hospital-acquired pneumonia in 2012, is unfortunately becoming typical of our NHS. Clwyd described how her husband was treated with “coldness, resentment, indifference and contempt” and that care had simply flown out of the window.
Our ageing population has to quite literally beg to receive the level of care that should be a right, and even then they could still be refused services such as daily visits from nurses or help with doing their shopping. Professionals are either under so much pressure that they simply cannot cope or they’re in the wrong profession because they don’t care in the first place, and unfortunately I think it’s a combination of the two.
No thanks to the government, of course. Some cuts are inevitable yes, but with every year the strain on the NHS is increasing. Prime Minister David Cameron came under fire last year when his claims that the NHS would be protected amidst cuts were proved to be inaccurate. Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham put it rather succinctly: “David Cameron famously promised he would cut the deficit, not the NHS. We now have it in black and white: he has cut the NHS, not the deficit.”
It’s these ruthless cuts that are resulting in more understaffed wards, which in turn leads to longer waiting lists and more problems arising. Let’s just say that when my friend was in A&E waiting for hours on end to receive pain relief injections in the stomach, it’s a good job that she wasn’t pregnant or diabetic seeing as the nurse forgot to ask. Whilst no-one can go their whole lives without making a mistake, sometimes such errors are unfortunately lethal. Surely asking questions about a patient’s current health situation should be routine before performing any kind of injection.
It’s these kinds of horror stories that have made me lose faith in the NHS. We only have to look at the potential closure of the A&E department at the Lancaster Infirmary on our doorstep to see that the NHS is failing to provide the proper care for its patients. Maybe we should just take the plunge and privatise the NHS. Yes, it would be costly for us, but costs for English patients are increasing regardless. I was recently told that my eye test would cost nearly £40, not including the amount it would cost for a new pair of glasses, and don’t even get me started on dental costs. Either we privatise the NHS to ensure that enough money is being pumped into the system to provide a proper level of care, or we simply hope that we don’t ever get seriously ill. Things aren’t looking good.