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NHS 75 - Celebration or beginning of the end?

Addressing the struggles facing the NHS


5 MINUTE READ


Let’s cut to the chase. We’ve all seen the news; we’ve all seen the statistics - things seemingly haven’t been looking upwards for the NHS. Whilst it’s true that external factors such as the COVID pandemic have contributed towards many of the issues that the NHS have been facing, it appears that all over the board there are a plethora of negative reports.


As a worker within healthcare, a level of concern is expected considering the constant fear-mongering headlines. It is especially understandable to deem the celebration of the NHS’s ‘anniversary’ as inconsequential in view of the current environment.


It is true that the NHS is something that should be cherished and celebrated. What the organisation has done for our country these past 75 years is extraordinary, and all the individuals that have contributed towards our Health Service deserve endless appreciation and admiration.


However, instead of brushing the banquet of issues under the carpet, it is important that we establish the reality of the NHS’S situation as of late. If you are in search of answers and guidance regarding this subject - look no further than this article.


To break it down and clear the fog, here are some of the most pressing issues faced by the NHS, outlined and explained with facts.



FINANCE CRISIS


It is widespread knowledge that the NHS is currently facing significant financial challenges. With factors including inflation, care backlog and rising energy expenses, there are extreme cost pressures for the NHS. The demand for healthcare continues to increase ever higher, with the COVID-19 Pandemic only accelerating this demand.


With more healthcare services being required, this comes hand in hand with more funding being needed in turn for the NHS to have the chance to keep up. However, is this being achieved?


Statistics suggest that the answer to this question is no. King’s Fund chief policy analyst Siva Anandaciva reinforces this in his recent report, and he says that “History tells us that we do need to spend more on the NHS”, with the current funding increase of 3-4% barely being enough for the NHS to stay afloat. Instead, Anandaciva argues that healthcare budgets should be growing by 5-6% to make a change.


So, what is being done to improve this?


In the Autumn Statement 2022, it was announced that there will be an increase in funding of £3.3bn in 2023/4 and 2024/5 in response to the growing burden the NHS is under. Whilst this does not provide an instant solution, this budget increase will help to lessen the strain.


Yes, it is a fact that there are financial struggles within the NHS. However, as a healthcare worker, it is important to not be discouraged. Despite the dramatic headlines implying impending doom, a glimmer of peace of mind should be given in the recognition of the fact that strategies are in place to improve matters.



STAFF SHORTAGES


Next, let’s move on to the subject of staff shortages within the NHS. This topic is widely discussed, with an array of reports being circulated throughout the media.


According to the latest workforce plan released by the NHS England, the health service is operating with 154,000 fewer staff than it needs. This figure is undoubtedly concerning, and as a healthcare worker this might serve as a worry-provoker. However, it is important to note that alongside the announcement of this figure, a detailed proposal was also released which entails a strategy for solving this ongoing issue.


Moreover, it is also important to note that overall, statistics show that there are over 1.2 million full-time staff working in NHS trusts over England, with an increase of 53,600 staff from last year. This puts into perspective the number of staff shortages in comparison to the size of the NHS workforce overall.


It should be kept into consideration that media outlets are infamous for their inflation of negativity. Despite there being truth in that the NHS does require more staff, there are still thousands of staff who remain steadfast, dedicated, and passionate for their job.



CARE BACKLOG


Care backlog is one of the biggest challenges that the NHS faces. With the scale of the patients that the NHS looks after, it is no surprise that there is difficulty in catering to all. In 2021/22, there were an estimated 570 million patient contacts within the NHS overall, as well as an estimated 1.6 million contacts every single day.


According to the British Medical Association NHS backlog data analysis, in March 2023, there were 7.42 million patients waiting for treatment, and 3.09 million of these patients having waited for over 18 weeks.


However, despite these figures seeming dire and intimidating, the backlog is improving. For example, the Government website reports that since last December alone, 18-month waits have fallen by more 54,882 patients. In addition, it is also stated that the NHS has now reduced 18-month waits for regular treatment by more than 91%.


As a result of various factors such as advances in medical treatments, the population is growing. Consequently, more healthcare is needed. As a worker within healthcare, looking at these figures can be fear inducing. Although, it is vital to remember that just as there are lots of patients, there are lots of devoted doctors, nurses, volunteers are carers that all contribute towards the care of each and every patient.


Overall, a key factor to remember is that these patients are not figures or numbers, they are individuals. With every patient treated, a life is touched. This is the very purpose for working within healthcare; to serve the health and wellbeing of our country. There are undeniably many issues that the NHS faces, but the many positives and successes of the NHS should not be disregarded.



 

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