The Destruction of the NHS: A Dialogue at Breaking Point
by Nima Ghadiri
Is the NHS at breaking point?
Yes, it really is. As things stand, it will not exist in five to ten years time, and different elements of our Health Service will be apportioned as Dialysis-Plus East Coast, CrossCancer, Virgin Maternity, or whatever other word-pasticcio the “brand positioner” regorges.
With consecutive governments in seemingly total denial about the state of the NHS, the phrase “crisis point” is an understatement. We need to do something now, every month which passes brings the death sentence closer.
Ok, just…. just chill out there for a second. Are things really THAT BAD?
Chucking about numbers is often a precursor to a well-known Disraeli quote, paraphrased by Mark Twain. Nevertheless, sometimes they are needed so people can grasp what is happening.
Since 2011, there has been a 504% increase in the number of patients waiting over four hours in A&E Departments across the country, forcing Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt to ditch the target. 23 hospitals were simultaneously on black alert earlier this year, which means that they “are unable to guarantee life-saving emergency care”. This included Jeremy Hunt’s own local hospital The Royal Surrey, which had 27 patients urgently needing a bed but no space.
Waiting times for surgery have been getting much longer, and 4093 urgent operations were cancelled in 2016, an increase of 27% in just two years. Knee and hip operations are now being rationed only for those who aren’t able to sleep because of agony, using bogus “pain tests” as a differentiator.
Cancer treatment targets have been missed for four consecutive years, and services are now failing. Mental health services are being rationed, so people who suffer are dying in their homes, unable to care for themselves.
These are frightening figures, it’s no wonder the Red Cross (who stepped in early in the year to help with a shortage of ambulances) has declared the NHS a humanitarian crisis, as people are dying needlessly in the world’s fifth-richest country…
Stop, I get the idea, things are looking gloomy all round. Surely, we have the MONEY to stop this?
Astonishingly, as demand has risen hugely, funding has been cut. Our spending on the NHS as a percentage of our GDP has plummeted below 10%. This is a lot less than France and Germany, and amongst the lowest in the developed world.
If our national health funding matched the average amount that Europe’s 10 leading economies spend on their healthcare, perhaps we could lose this uncoveted accolade:
Yes, we need more NURSES and DOCTORS!
And we are getting far less. Medical school applications have plummeted, the proportion of med school graduates who become first year doctors has gone down from 70% to 50%, with phrases such as “in droves” and “en masse” describing the number of junior doctors leaving the United Kingdom. Enormous rota gaps are now ubiquitous, GP vacancies have skyrocketed from 2% in 2011 to 12.2% now, and 84% of general practitioners now say that their workload is affecting patient care.
Nursing applications have fallen by 23% over the last year, and the removal of bursary funding for student nurses and midwives has sent one clear message “We don’t value you”, underlined by years of below-inflation 0% and 1% pay rises. By 2019, NHS workers will have seen their pay capped for nine consecutive years, and nurses will have seen their pay reduced by 12%.
To add salt into these raw and gaping wounds, the Secretary of State for Health massively over-estimated nurses’ average pay this month when he was asked why so many nurses are having to use food banks.
Source: British Medical Journal
So they want things to fail, is this all about PRIVATISATION?
We don’t need to speculate about this, it’s all there in numbers, contracts, even a book with Jeremy Hunt’s name on it, calling for the de-nationalisation of the NHS. There has been an increase in spending on “independent sector providers” of a third between 2014 and 2016, and an estimated 500% more contracts have gone private since 2012.
The plan for privatising the National Health Service isn’t exclusive to one party. The groundwork was done by the previous government, with poorly conceived “public service reforms” leading to unfettered introduction of private corporations into commissioning. It has accelerated over recent years, however.
So what are the POLITICIANS saying?
Absolutely the wrong things. For a National Health Service which is quite visibly starving, Jeremy Hunt said: “The NHS needs to go on a 10-year diet”.
Theresa May also didn’t like the Red Cross assessment of the NHS, calling them “irresponsible” and “overblown”.
The BMA has identified five key issues for the future of the NHS, and it would indeed be “irresponsible” if politicians did not address these:
Are you subtly telling me which way to VOTE?
No, it’s not for me to instruct you, and people don’t like being told what to do. Nevertheless, it’s currently very easy for the mainstream media and tabloid press to distract the general population and report on fake scandals rather than one which is very real, and affects all of us.
As long as you are aware of what is happening and can make up your own mind, then that’s already very important. If you can spread the word to others, even better. Over the next few months we will see an increase in grass-roots movements in social media and the streets, in support of the National Health Service. There will be a nurses’ summer of protest activity, a show of anger against pay-rise caps and maltreatment which has left 40,000 posts unfilled.
Battling a Murdoch and Dacre Press which has vested interests against the NHS will be challenging, and no doubt lies will be spun which confuse and subvert. Tabloid journalism had a pivotal role in the Junior Doctor contracts dispute, and may do so against the nurses too. It is crucial to appreciate that supporting our nurses means supporting our National Health Service.