Health Issues

I don’t normally look at current affairs in detail on my blog. I prefer to go with the whole random stream of consciousness thing. This is in part because the daily news is guaranteed to drag everyone down. Just a glance at the BBC News home page this morning and you see all these very negative words and phrases.

‘Struggling’. ‘Bailing out’. ‘Crisis’. ‘Failing’. ‘Discrimination’. ‘Backlog’. ‘Disappointed’. ‘Attacked’.

Today’s main headline is about bailing out struggling A&E departments. This in and of itself is not a bad thing; I work for the NHS and heavens only knows they need all the financial help they can get. But there also needs to be an extra layer of education amongst the people of this country and a change in expectations.

A&E departments get the rough end of the NHS stick. They get enough genuine cases, sure. But they also get people who turn up with sunburn, or people who roll in on Saturday nights, drunk out of their skulls, expecting a free taxi home. And they get it, too. Because the staff working on A&E aren’t paid anywhere near enough money to put up with the levels of abuse they get. Packing the drunk fool into a taxi and sending him/her on their way is the quickest answer. But the costs of this mount up alarmingly quickly.

I get frustrated with people’s negativity towards the NHS, I really do. Everyone has had their experiences, I imagine. I have. I have had three personally close experiences of the NHS; when I had the Son, when the Son broke his arm and when Himself broke his leg. In all three cases the staff were professional, courteous, kind and caring. In one of those two cases, they also saved the lives of two people. Sounds terribly dramatic when you put it like that, but the fact of the matter is that had the NHS not been there for me, both me and the Son would not be here.

But like anything else, all you hear are the horror stories. Good heavens, there’s some horror stories.

There is an enormous amount of pressure on the NHS. In response to asking ‘the people’ what they wanted to see out of their healthcare, more services are being shunted out to custom-designed GP surgeries. Simple procedures that at one time required a trip to hospital are now carried out in a more local location. This is in accordance with the expressed wishes of the various populations. They were in agreement that it would be more convenient to go to a health centre closer to home for a day procedure than having to get to hospitals. What happens when this is implemented? The hospitals are able to re-direct their funds, injecting cash into the services for serious diseases and trauma treatments.

This also means that hospitals shrink in size. They lose a number of beds because now certain services are outsourced, they don’t need to maintain as many.

‘It’s a bloody outrage!’ The majority of people from whom this refrain comes are the very people who ticked the ‘yes, this is what we would like to see’ box. Double standards much?

When the illustrious Welshman conceived the NHS back in the forties, our country was ready for it. The population has changed so much since then though. The sheer strain and pressure on our services is huge. A huge proportion of time is dedicated to illnesses acquired through things such as smoking, drinking, drugs, poor lifestyles… things that were nowhere near as rife back in Mr. Bevan’s day.

It’s difficult to know what the solution is. That’s because there is no solution, or if there is, it’s so multi-layered and complex it’s way beyond the understanding of a lowly pleb like myself. Investing in their staff a little more would be a good way for the NHS to go. A clearer understanding of the demands and pressures from the faceless monkeys at the Department of Health who gaily smash out impossible targets to put the hospitals under even more pressure might be nice. Unlikely, I acknowledge, but nice.

The staff themselves also need to change. The NHS has all these wonderful facilities. Modern technology, breakthroughs in medicine and understanding… better respect for patient’s wants and needs…’ and yet it seems to run on 1950’s values. You frequently hear phrases such as ‘well, that’s the way we’ve always done it’ being bandied about all the time. Introducing modern concepts to what can only kindly be called ‘stick-in-the-muds’ can be roughly the equivalent of searching for hen’s teeth.

Our Trust is going through the motions attempting to consolidate two hospitals into one, through downsizing and shipping services out to GPs and custom-designed healthcare centres, so that they can focus on saving lives. Staff should at least be partly invested in this process. They joined the NHS for a reason above and beyond paying the bills (in most cases) and yet despite all the positives – such as the Trust being in a position to climb the ladder of technical advances, to offer patients tip-top and world-class services – people are obsessed with one thing and one thing only. Tell them about dignity for patients in the form of single rooms. Tell them about offering cardiac CT services. Tell them about all of the positives and the same question comes up.

‘Where will I park my car?’

Goodness. This turned into a rant.

tl;dr – The NHS is in trouble – again. Take a minute and consider where the real problems lie. Is it all with the NHS itself? No. Is it because of governments, current or past? No, not really, although Labour’s idea of ‘targets’ still linger. Is it because of the way people abuse the system? Just maybe the blame for problems with the NHS can be laid at the feet of all these people – as well as the people who mis-use the service itself.

Enough ranting. Normality will resume tomorrow.

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