The NHS in general and its performance in GP surgeries and hospitals in particular has come in for much criticism lately, some justified, some patently not.
I use the system, and have done quite intensively for at least 15 years. I won’t go into my conditions, some of which are chronic, that is they are long term, but not necessarily immediately fatal. The other type of condition is acute, such as heart failure, of which thankfully I have none. But even acute conditions needn’t be life-threatening. So my experiences? Mostly good, considering the number of people being treated, the qualified staff available and the facilities. Overall, in my estimation, the NHS does a good job under difficult circumstances, but obviously all patients have differing outlooks. In my area the system is well integrated with blood tests being done in a health centre are instantly available in another, so there is no chasing the central testing lab for results. The consultant I see is a professor who is highly qualified, and the staff, some not necessarily medical professionals, i.e. phlebotomists, are all highly skilled and caring. I found out the other day for example that the person taking my blood sample hadn’t had a pay rise for 5 years, and that staff at the local supermarket get a higher hourly rate than they do. That is totally obscene, that a shelf stacker, who can learn the job in about 2 minutes should get paid more than a skilled technician whose training is continuous and on the job. Its a good job we don’t apply these standards to doctors and consultants, who in my estimation are worth every penny they get paid. When you consider that MPs want 11% to take a basic salary up to £76,000 for trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to govern the county, it doesn’t quite stack up.
Of course, analysis of the reasons why the NHS is bursting at the seams and is under constant pressure would probably be because of immigration and the break-up of families, coupled with unemployment. I know someone who works as a doctors receptionist and people go into that surgery demanding aspirin for hangovers. When asked why they don’t spend 28 pence on aspirins from a chemist, the retort is usually that they are ‘on benefits’. So they can afford booze enough to get drunk but not the cure. Multiply that by the millions who use the NHS as a free entitlement, whatever the reason, and it can be seen that the cost will escalate. Like many I use the NHS for my conditions, but hardly use the system for other day to day ailments. The ‘free at the point of use’ principle is overused by many as a right, whereas the rest of us are quite happy to fork out for Lemsip or paracetamol. This is because a) we can afford to and b) we don’t want to hang around doctors surgeries to be told that a cold/cough is viral and cannot be treated by drugs. To be fair to GPs though, you wouldn’t blame them for sending serial cold complainers away with either a placebo or anti-viral drugs which will have no effect, except to make them feel that the doctor has done ‘something’ however ineffective that might be.
Now today, the head honcho (sorry Medical Director) of the NHS, Sir Bruce Keogh announced that NHS hospitals will become ‘seven day operations’ so that anyone entering hospital on a weekend will get all the specialists and consultants that are normally there from Monday to Friday. He made a very good point: the service industry generally is available at the weekend so why should the NHS which is after all a ‘service’ not provide similar cover? There will be a knock on effect of course with changes of contracts for all medical staff in hospitals, except for A&E departments, probably because they are already a 24 hour operation. That’s for hospitals, could we eventually expect GP surgeries to offer weekend surgeries? They don’t even cover out of hours calls themselves these days, so that may a sticking point. I think the juries still out on all these decisions. Time will tell.