Our winters seem to be defined by two things – wet and windy storms that are given names and serious problems in the NHS.
By the time you read this column, Storm Eleanor will have left our shores and the people affected will be mopping up and repairing damage. Sadly, our NHS will be lurching from one state of emergency to another.
You’ll note I haven’t referred to the desperate situation in the NHS as a crisis. According to the Department of Health, it isn’t a crisis. I’d like to hear that directly from the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, but he seems to have done another of his vanishing tricks.
He should try telling the front-line doctors and nurses who are working their fingers to the bone that there is no crisis. He might like to explain to patients who have had operations cancelled that they’ve waited months for, that there is no crisis. Then he can talk to ambulance bosses at the North East Ambulance Service who have announced the highest state of alert because they simply can’t cope.
Anybody who says there isn’t a crisis in the NHS is burying their head in the sand, afraid to admit that the policy of central government has caused this. It’s solely the fault of the Tories that almost every hospital trust in the country is in serious debt; that is entirely down to underfunding.
The announcement this week that hospitals can cancel elective surgery to ease pressure may seem like a sensible response to the ‘crisis’. But if you are one of the patients affected, it won’t seem remotely sensible. I hope Jeremy Hunt was listening to BBC Radio 5 on Wednesday morning to hear a patient who has had an operation for a hip replacement cancelled describe the excruciating pain he is in. I hope he also read the tweet from a doctor who described conditions in his unit as like those in the third world. Maybe he saw the BBC Breakfast interview with a senior A&E consultant who said lives are being put at risk by the current ‘crisis’?
Instead of avoiding the realities of a worsening ‘crisis’, Jeremy Hunt and his Tory colleagues should be touring hospitals and looking at the number of sick, elderly and frail patients lying on trolleys waiting for a bed. They should speak to nurses and patients about the indignity of being on a mixed sex ward now that the hard won policy of single sex wards has been ditched. Instead of denying the ‘crisis’ they want to get out there and see the ‘crisis’ for themselves.
But don’t think it’s all doom and gloom in the NHS. It isn’t. I had to attend Emergency Care with my son a few days ago. The wait wasn’t too bad and the care he received was superb. But that is despite Jeremy Hunt not because of him. It’s down to the incredible dedication and hard work of our doctors and nurses and we should salute them, support them and thank them.