There’s no doubt that the NHS is in trouble but sorting it out is no just a matter of throwing more money at it because one of its problems is a lack of people and there just aren’t enough out there to fill the gaps. It’s broader than this but some components of the solution seem pretty obvious.
I speak with a little relevant knowledge. I was chair of the Health Committee at Cambridgeshire County Council between 2015 and 2017 and enjoyed working relationships at that time with the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), Cambridgeshire’s excellent hospitals and Public Health England (the photo above is of me with its chief executive Duncan Selbie). Even then it was obvious what could be done for starters to improve matters.
Sort out social care: we all know this but do nothing about it. Until this sector can perform as it needs to there’s going to continue to be the blockages in the NHS because of ‘delayed discharges of care’. Maybe we should abandon this euphemism and talk bout ‘bed blocking’ because that’s what it is. It’s akin to running a factory without being able to use the warehouse for finished goods.
Reduce demand: if fewer people were getting sick then there would be less demand on the NHS so that it would be able to operate more effectively. Keeping people healthy is one of the roles of Public Health but that’s seriously underfunded and in 2017 the government of the day in its wisdom cut its grant mid year. According to the Health Foundation since 2015/16 the public health grant has been cut by 24% on a real-terms per person basis (click here)
In 2016 I presented a motion at the Local Government Association conference in Bournemouth. This called upon Councils to regard pubic health projects as investments and upon the Government to making funding available. The motion was unanimously supported but to my knowledge nothing ever happened.
Improve understanding: I remember the CCG especially grumbling about the attitude of people to the NHS. It seemed that there was a sense of having a right to access regardless of the severity of the problem. What was needed was more of a sense of ownership of a valuable but limited asset which should only be used when it really was needed. There are campaigns to get people to ring 111 first or to go to the pharmacist for advice but they do seem to miss the point which is that it’s ‘our’ NHS not ‘the’ NHS and it’s up to all of us to take care of it.
It strikes me that if you can sort the above out then the size of the NHS problem might be severely diminished.