Posted by on January 23, 2018 at 9:25 am

Professor John Wattis

Professor of Psychiatry for Older Adults John Wattis criticises the lack of funding for the NHS.

“I have written before about the pressures on the NHS. They continue to increase. There are some great innovations and some brilliant staff, but the fundamental problem (as has been highlighted before) is lack of capacity. The UK has fewer hospital beds per 1000 population than most other European countries, less than half the rate in Germany, for example. The problem is compounded by underfunding causing a crisis in social care which causes backpressure on hospital beds. This, in turn puts pressure on A&E departments, and the Ambulance Service. All this was perfectly predictable. Respected Health Service research organisations, including the King’s Fund estimated that the NHS would be £4bn short of what was needed to maintain services. Even the NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens asserted that compared with Germany, France or Sweden, we are currently underspending  by £20-30bn per year.

This crisis is caused by government imposed austerity and compounded by our chronic failure to train enough nurses and doctors, compounded in turn by the inexplicable decision to remove nursing bursaries. In addition, covert privatisation through the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is estimated to be costing the NHS £2bn per year. Small wonder that we have recurrent negative messages about the NHS in the media. As Simon Stevens said the NHS is incredibly efficient (though still with some room for improvement). There are many good things happening, particularly in terms of community support for ill old people, though the system is still fragmented.

With my wife, I have been looking after my 96-year-old mother who has many long-standing health problems and is practically immobile. She has various aids provided by the community services (and some she had to buy for herself) without which we could not manage. Over the last 10 days, she has been confined to bed with a severe chest infection. GP and community nursing and therapy services have been wonderful; but there are still gaps. Urgently needed bed rails have not been provided (the ‘equipment service’ isn’t available at weekends). Last night she fell out of bed and we had to wait nearly three hours for the Ambulance Service to come and get her back into bed. They were wonderful when they came, but the delay (completely due to circumstances beyond their control) meant mum was lying on the floor in discomfort for over three hours).

This is an NHS running on ‘empty’. No amount of re-organisation will solve the problems. It may even make matters worse. What is needed is resources into the NHS, social services and into education for health care professions, including a return to the bursary system for nurses.  And it’s needed NOW!”


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