According to leading health organisations, the condition of the NHS is critical, with little hope of recovery unless drastic resuscitation measures are speedily undertaken. Signatories to an open letter published in the Independent and directed at all three major political parties represent a powerful coalition of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals; among them the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing. It also includes charity bosses and other organisations with public welfare interests. With warnings coming from these most credible of sources, politicians need to respond urgently and decisively if the founding principle of the NHS, ‘…to provide universal healthcare according to need and not the ability to pay’, is to remain alive and well.
Stories of inadequate patient care resulting in tragedy are becoming too commonplace for comfort, and the letter warns that unless annual budgetary increases are awarded in line with rising costs and demand, the NHS will face a deficit of £30bn by 2020. The result will be a catastrophic decline in the availability of health services. Although these professionals acknowledge that spending on healthcare was protected from the general austerity measures taken in response to the recession, they emphasise that the inadequacies that remain in spite of this have caused budgets to ‘flatline’, which is affecting every area of physical and mental health.
The shortage of GPs has been felt by most Brits needing an appointment, but is most keenly felt by patients enduring the stress of waiting for a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Over-extended midwives leave many new mothers having to cope with inadequate care and attention. The letter from the deeply concerned medical professionals also highlights the plight of dementia sufferers whose need for special home care is largely ignored in the current NHS scheme. In addition to this, the shortage of facilities providing emergency mental health care has led to many patients being referred to hospitals hundreds of miles from their homes. All-in-all, the published letter paints a stark and dire picture of the level of healthcare the British people can expect in the future.
With the general election coming up in May, the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are promising to address the health crisis as a matter of priority should they be elected to government. The British public can only hope that the party pitches to voters are not just a matter of political manoeuvring, as this is a key issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.