Did we ever think that it would come to this? Probably not. The doom sayers are always too cautious. It’s only when you are up close and personal with the reality that you are hit the hardest.
A friend of mine rose for his usual mid-sleep trip to the loo recently when, sober, the room began to swim uncontrollably with cream light, and the bath to his side was now the bath to the front, now the bath to the back. He had a feeling something was very wrong. He crawled to the door and shouted his wife. Minutes later an emergency call for an ambulance was returned with a warning that it could be some time before help came.
My friend was slumped on the floor, propped against a dresser, wrapped in fleecy joggers, a fleecy dressing gown, faux fur throw and duvet and was shivering gulping for breath. An hour and a half later there is still no sign of an ambulance and so a neighbour, dragged from her bed about 4.00am, offered to drive him to A&E about 5.00am where he received the greatest of care. Friend later pointed out that of the 7 medical staff he saw in the next 6 hours only one was English. Thank God for immigrants, eh?!
He’d had a “dodgy turn” – not a heart attack, thankfully, but was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
But that’s not the point of this post. The point is that the NHS, after many warnings in recent times, is broken. Repairable? Probably, if there is a will. But broken thanks to 12 years of a government who set out to break it. Nurses were lauded as heroes and heroines during the pandemic. Now, along with ambulance and paramedics, for the first time ever, they go on strike for better pay and conditions and in an attempt to save the NHS (48,000 vacancies) and the Government refuse to enter into talks.
The blame game has begun. But a failure by the government to even address the issues is criminal. We shouldn’t be surprised. The facts speak for themselves. In 2010, after 13 years of a Labour government (1997 to 2010), 75% of ambulance call-outs met the 8 minute response target. Today, 12 years of Tories later, 4 hour waits or non-arrival are common. Paramedics are reporting that they have witnessed patients dying due to waiting outside A&E. Strangely, no-one is pursuing this other than the health professionals. The beating heart of the NHS has Afib – (as atrial fibrillation is abbreviated). It is wired up to an ECG. It needs help, desperately. It is gasping.
The 20 years under Margaret Thatcher saw no increase in funding as a proportion of GDP. The Labour government changed that dramatically. Then the austerity years set in with the Thatcher Wannabes who reduced the proportion of GDP gradually on a downward trend. So, instead of taking the opportunity afforded by low inflation to invest in the NHS it has been neglected to the extent that hundreds of hospitals have roofs in danger of collapsing. The staff have fallen behind in real terms pay. Social care is in danger of bankrupting councils. Social care underfunding exacerbates the crisis in the NHS. Frankly, it’s a mess.
Now, with inflation spiralling out of control, the NHS is on its knees and ministers are advising people not undertake risky activity. Yes, honest.
Where will it end? It can only end one way and that has to be the rescue of the NHS, a pay package and working conditions that will attract recruitment, acknowledgment that only investment will correct this situation. It needs an open-minded government. That, however, might be the hardest thing to find …
Anyway, cheer up …
(Header image from the Nursing times.)