The NHS. Our treasured and beloved national health service. It’s one of those institutions to be truly proud of.
Launched in 1948, the NHS was established to provide good healthcare to every single person in the United Kingdom. This famous health service has just celebrated its 70th birthday. But concerns are persistently raised about the NHS’s future.
However what needs to happen to ensure the NHS continues to celebrate its impressive birthday milestones?
It is estimated that by 2020, the NHS could be facing a cash shortfall of £30 billion per year. £30 billion!! That’s an awful lot of money to find and although taxes can be increased to cover part of the shortfall, the answer doesn’t lie in money alone.
Efficiency is key. There are many areas within the NHS where efficiency can be increased which, in turn, will guarantee more time for what matters most; patient care.
There have been a series of documentaries shown in recent years on the BBC, depicting real-life behind the scenes situations within the NHS. The key topic raised within the programme was the bed crisis. Due to lack of beds, major and life-saving operations frequently have to be postponed. Shockingly there are often extremely well-paid surgical consultants and their extensive teams sitting around with absolutely nothing to do because there would be nowhere to put the patient they potentially could have operated on. It seems ludicrous?!
More focus needs to be on patient support and care after a stay in hospital. Concerns have been raised regarding discharge times which are regularly delayed due to issues with patient aftercare provisions after the spell an individual spends in hospital. In fact it is believed that such discharge delays cost the NHS £30 million every year, not to mention the knock-on effect to other areas of the hospitals; that is, the barrage of delayed operations and the absence of beds.
Local authority care budgets need to be maintained or increased – not decreased – to allow more treatment of patients closer to home. Care in the community itself would see a huge reduction in strain on the already-drowning hospitals.
Another interesting area of improvement is surrounding technology. A study of a project running in the United States saw a quarter of consultations successfully carried out by e-mail; a model the United Kingdom could benefit from following in the future. The NHS has benefited from some technological advances over the past few years; electronic patient records, ‘choose and book’ hospital appointments, online booking at GP practices. However this is only the tip of the iceberg and, with the right investment, the NHS could reap the benefit of technological efficiencies; in the long run lessening the heavy workloads of many.
And last but absolutely no means least, the medical profession needs to remains an enticing career choice for the workforce in the United Kingdom. The NHS already offers an array of great benefits to its employees but it needs to ensure it maintains a good working environment for its staff to complement the already-attractive pension scheme, salary, holiday entitlement and training opportunities that are also offered to their staff.
Long live the NHS!