Just as a wave of A and E departments issued alerts over overwhelming demand and local health agencies spent thousands asking people NOT to go to A and E unless it was a serious emergency. Jeremy Hunt [the Health Secretary] he had admitted taking his children to A and E.
‘ I took my own children to A and E department at the weekend because I did not want to wait until later on to see a GP. We have to recognise that society is changing and people do not always know whether the care they need is urgent and making GPs available at weekends will relieve a lot of pressure in A and E departments.’
As Emma Rowley-Conway [chairwoman of SELDOC ] pointed out – the new 111 service is there to help patients distinguish between conditions that are urgent and those that are not. ‘Millions of pounds are spent on GP out of hours services which are open whenever the GP surgery is closed – and yet he chose to attend A and E. He chose to see a junior doctor rather than an experienced GP . ‘Why is he so poorly briefed’.
A survey by business analytics company SAS suggested one in 10 people now has a “hospital-only” mentality. This means they go to A&E even for trivial problems because they are not prepared to wait for a GP appointment. Jeremy Hunt seems to be an example. This 24 hr, 7 day a week – I should be able to see a doctor when ever I want to is an expensive concept for a free service like the NHS. Demand for services and increasing expectations has to be managed but unfortunately politicians like to promise to give the electorate more not less.
Stresses on the NHS
On the same day The Kings Fund, an influential think tank, urged the Government to put more money into a ‘cash starved NHS’. The NHS has been praised by two important international bodies – The Commonwealth Institute [an American think tank] and The World Health Organisation. The NHS came out as the most efficient, effective and health care system in the 11 most developed countries in the world. We spend less of our GDP on health than most of them. However increasing obesity rates, new treatments and the ageing population are putting strains in all developed countries. NICE announced this week that we should be carrying out about 3 times as many bariatric operations [operations on the stomach for weight loss] as we are. In the past the only treatment for severe arthritis of the hip would have been cheap drugs like aspirin that cost pennies. Nowadays hip replacements can transform lives – but they cost thousands. The Institute of Fiscal Studies announced on Monday that the number of people over the age of 65 will have increased by 20% between 2010 and 2020. ‘Our rough calculations suggest that keeping total health spending constant over the decade will have an effect similar to a 9% cut had the population remained the same.’ they said.
I hope that politicians can have an honest conversation with the public about what we should expect the NHS to provide – what is a need and what is a want? It is not the system that is at fault. It can’t fund more and more for less.