So as I sit here typing this, I'm wondering exactly which direction this blog will go. I wanted to try and get over how all the NHS news stories look from a patient point of view. The thing is I didn't want this blog post to concentrate on just one area, but in a way that is the whole point. If you listen or watch the news or read the newspapers it will be impossible to miss the stories that are constantly hitting the headlines. When an area gets such constant coverage then you truly know something isn't right.
So I wanted to try and highlight what I mean...
Stories like this one:
I've come to quite dislike the term "junior" doctors, because it really does do them a disservice. Every organisation has its own way of referring to its staff, but someone who has been doing a job for 10 years is hardly "junior" - but still enough of that.
So the first thing to go into my 'evidence pot' is that the doctors and the government have fallen out big time - this is not good news for people like me, patients. As a patient what I really need is some kind of comfort that the people who will look after me in my time of need will be in a fit state to do so.
NHS - the 7 day service
This area I find particularly annoying. The government say they want a "7 day service", like there isn't one already. I've been in a hospital ward twice during a weekend and there were plently of people on duty to look after me. But I know what the government are getting at, whilst there were doctors and nurses and ancillary staff on duty to look after me, other areas were not, such as physio's, social care, etc. But this is where the story gets muddied
The message around what the government actually wants is not clear enough and this has caused patient concern that doctors don't work at the weekend and they won't be cared for if they get ill. This is simply not the case, and the government implying that doctors don't work 7 days is an ill thought out strategy - also part of the cause of the general falling out between the two sides.
Get the message clearer in this area - what the government wants is a full 7 day service, of not just critical care, but all the ancillary services - to be able to book surgery on a Sunday, pop in for an xray or blood test on a weekend etc.
Then comes another area where the experts and government fall out. How will you staff this extra service, when recruitment and retention is already an issue. Throw billions of pounds of public money at a 7 day service by all means, but have some kind of idea how you're going to staff it and also whether that is actually the best way to spend the public money in the first place.
As a patient, has anyone ever asked ME whether I want a 7 day service, and if I did, exactly what would I want from this 7 day service. Right now, I would settle for assurances that the existing services are in safe hands, which seems far from guaranteed....
NHS - "Winter pressures"
As a patient, this is the front line, this is where it really matters. Winter pressures have been in the news every year for the last few years. Inevitably more people get ill during the winter, and this puts pressure on key parts of the NHS. The GP surgeries and in particularly the A&E departments, like this story:
This story links to a wider issue of NHS funding....
This is another area where NHS experts and the government seem to disagree. The government has promised an extra £9billion to the NHS based on this weighty report, the "Five year forward view"
Although as I have already seen pointed out on social media, this 5 year view, is already one year old, and now represents only 4 years. But still, if the experts are to be believed, this £9billion is in fact not nearly enough. It isn't enough to keep the existing NHS going, let along investing in a better NHS and it certainly isn't enough to fund a full 7 day service, this was never even included in the 'forward view'.
Which leads me to this report
The above doesn't paint a very rosy picture. There have been widespread reports in the news about underfunded NHS trusts and the prospects of these trusts running out of money during the next year or so. For us patients that isn't something we want to hear.
As well as being a patient, I'm also a tax payer. I want to know and deserve to know whether my money is being spent wisely. It is a huge topic.
Loads of NHS scare stories just on one page
- Crisis in residential care
- Record number of patients in hospital too long (cue the horrible term "bed blocking")
- Drugs are too expensive
- the NHS will be privatised
- War of words between 'sides'
As a patient, that little lot can't be good news, can it?
So what does this all mean for patients?
I've pulled a random selection of news stories into the above few paragraphs. You could pull in 100 more - they all tell a worrying story for a patient or potential patient.
- Will I be able to attend my appointment when doctors go on strike?
- If I get to hospital will there be anyone there to care for me?
- Will my doctor be too tired and stressed to care for me properly?
- Will there even be a hospital there when I get ill!
The list could go on....
It's a worry, that's what it is. There seem to be no end of opinions, no-one on the various 'sides' seem to agree with one another. It seems fairly certain that money is very tight and that there are a huge amount of problems to solve. Lots of people with all different views need to sit down and talk to one another, not argue about how the other side is wrong.
Of course being a patient advisor for the NHS Survival campaign means I am bound to be angling at a certain thing. A cross party commission to properly discuss the future of the NHS and set out some clear options on how we are going to keep this wonderful service afloat.
Perhaps it hasn't been clear up until now exactly why this has been important, perhaps up until now you might think there isn't much to worry about, or that things aren't really that bad. But fire up your news service of choice and most days you are going to see an NHS story, and most of them don't make very pleasant reading.
The time is now to start those conversations, or else patient harm is going to happen. None of the sides want that, or course they don't. But some backing down needs to happen, some acceptance that all sides have a general aim and that the only way to align these into a sensible way forward is to get an agreement on what the way forward is.
Please, let's do that soon