It’s not easy to see too many causes for optimism in these early days of 2014 but one thing is for sure – the NHS is being widely discussed, the issues are very much in the public eye (perhaps only the economy is a bigger headline-maker than the NHS right now) and gradually people are realising that changes have to be made in order to halt the downward spiral. While the organisation has always been high profile, it’s not always been the case that criticism has been accepted.
Now however, there is more recognition that changing circumstances mean the NHS has to exist in 2014 rather than how it used to work 20 or 30 years ago. Times have changed and our healthcare system needs to adapt. The problem is where to start.
Achieving an honest, open NHS would perhaps be helpful in identifying issues before they become more significant. But helping and encouraging people to speak out requires a cultural change within the organisation and that sort of change doesn’t happen overnight or indeed over the course of just 12 months.
Finding funding solutions is difficult and brings with it the added complication of politics and the public purse. NHS trusts are under pressure to make efficiency savings, while at the same time it’s claimed that an extra 1 billion is required to recruit enough staff to keep GP’s surgeries open seven days a week as planned by the government.
In the meantime, people flood into A&E departments up and down the country, many unnecessarily, leading to further pressure on resources and longer waiting times. Alternative sources of treatment and care, such as NHS walk-in centres, have been closing due to financial pressures caused by them being too popular.
It seems like we’re caught up in a series of contradictions and complications and, ultimately, it is patients who suffer. Here at Fletchers, we see the results of negligence and assist those who have been a victim and it is clear there have been failings in the duty of care towards them.
Despite this, the NHS survives and, after a terrible 2013, must now firmly focus on what’s ahead. Co-ordinated and concrete plans are what’s now needed and the recognition that things are far from perfect is at least a good starting point.
The NHS provokes intense emotions but the vast majority of people want to see it succeed. It won’t be easy finding all the solutions and it will take time but it must be ensured that things don’t get any worse. We simply have to hope that last year was indeed a low ebb and that everyone realises the need to improve before matters truly get out of control.