The NHS stumbles on – chaotic and on the edge of financial ruin, leading the PM to announce a three year pay rise for low-end staff (The Independent, Mar 21st) quickly followed by a pledge to bring forward a ‘multi-year’ funding plan (The Guardian, Mar 27th). Yet for the vast sums of money the NHS consumes, patient outcomes are getting no better. In the UK the average doctor’s appointment lasts nine minutes and 33 seconds, the shortest time in Europe. No surprise then that mistakes happen and patients rarely get their problems properly looked at. One indication is the alarming rise in prescription painkillers. (The Independent, Mar 16th)
The breadth of the problem is alarming with news this month that more than a quarter of British adults are living with at least TWO long-term health conditions, with high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, depression and cancer among the most common. (Daily Mail, Mar 13th). These patients are responsible for the majority of GP consultations, hospital admissions and 80% of prescriptions.
The BBC (Mar 28th) reporting that the NHS has “not got enough beds or staff”. The Times (Mar 30th) explains that doctors have been told to stop treating minor ailments such as dandruff and coughs. Yet at the other end of the medical spectrum, the NHS Cancer Plan, launched nearly two decades ago, has failed to make any difference to survival rates. (Medscape, The Times, or Daily Mail, Mar 15th). Prostate screening has come in for criticism with a study showing that one off screening does not save lives. (The Telegraph or Cancer Research UK, Mar 6th)
Along with failure to improve outcomes come damning reports of negligence, such as one in the Cambridge News (Mar 23rd) which through freedom of information requests found that serious avoidable harm to patients is taking place on a daily basis. Whilst on the opposite side of the UK the Mancunion (Mar 5th) reports that the NHS is making 200 million medication errors per year. On top of this a seperate report from the NHS ombudsman has identified a ‘devastating toll’ of ‘serious failings’ in NHS mental health services, including ‘serious harm and even death’ (TheGuardian, Mar 21st)
The medical system is also culpable for the increase in antibiotic resistance with around 5,000 people in England dying each year because antibiotics have become useless against some infections and experts predict resistance will kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined within 30 years. Not only is this being driven by inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics, but a recent study has found that statins, hay fever medicines and other common prescriptions push gut bacteria towards antibiotic resistance. (The Telegraph, Mar 19th)
Now I’ll vent my spleen…
Almost every patient I see has either a horror story or an incompetence story, or both, to tell about their health journey in NHS hands. Each patient thinks it is only they who had ‘bad luck’, and that the NHS must be serving the majority marvellously well, as that is the theme song we have all be taught, since the inception of this Socialised Medical System in 1948, and never was it true. It relies upon the impossibility of any one individual having a good overview of what is going on. Those patients of mine who are doctors, or nurses, or midwives see it with more clarity, but, in their already manipulated minds think ‘but what else is there?’
Until we recover our senses, our decency as each individual, and refuse to be inveigled into dishonesty, the insanity will continue.
Almost every time I put my head above the parapet and say that GPs are not good enough the very first words in return are, ‘if only they had more time, they would do a better job’. Indeed, I’d put money on you, dear reader, thinking precisely that thought. But you are mistaken. Even when our GPs are given more time, or take more time, they fail all too often to grasp the patient’s actual needs, and I place the blame for this mostly upon the training they receive and their willingness to accept that training as adequate. It might be adequate for them to earn a decent living by, but that is not what we, the tax payer, thinks we have signed up for. We expect them to know human physiology, to pursue further insights into disease and symptom presentation as it floods out of good research labs and is published, and to know how to read and interpret blood tests better. All too often diagnoses are wrong, tests are ignored, and symptoms are overlooked that might have been pivotal to an accurate diagnosis. If I can do it, surely, surely, they can!
Indeed, if our GPs were doing their job properly, there would hardly be a need for me.
So the zombie of the NHS flails on – a half living corpse of the guardian angel we thought we were creating 70 years ago. As a conspicuous trail of casualties accumulates in its wake our politicians stand sheepishly by. Not one of them is willing to lift the silver dagger and put the poor beast to death.
I wish this combined silver bullet and stake were real…:
Please note, all those news stories above were just from March 2018. If we looked at similar articles over the past 70 years, they’d fill many tomes (and all too many tombs).