LETTER: NHS is struggling to cope

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THE NHS is struggling to cope with very serious financial problems.

However David Cameron has promised to pour billions of pounds into this vital service over the coming five years if he continues as our Prime Minister.

That will be difficult to do because Government debt is currently £1.4 million million, plus £4.7 million million of forward pension liabilities.

It will probably take 25 years or more to pay off this debt which was created by the current and previous governments.

Growing demand for care from an ageing population, the increasing cost of drugs, pressure on A&E units, and the need to hire more nurses to ensure high standards of treatment are driving up costs.

NHS hospitals are having to cut staff and services.

Many of them are having to spend heavily on agency staff, with a 60 per cent rise in the total bill for locum doctors in the past three years.

The result is that 44 per cent of the 145 hospital trusts in England were expected to end last year in the red with a combined debt of more than £330m.

And now the Royal College of GPs says that more than 500 surgeries could close in England over the next year because many GPs are about to retire.

There are 543 practices where 90 per cent of the GPs are over 60.

There is a severe shortage of younger doctors to replace them because a career as a GP is not attractive to many of them.

David Cameron wants everyone to have access to their family doctor seven days a week by 2020, but senior GPs say there are too few doctors to man surgeries at weekends.

Younger GPs are leaving to work abroad or to retrain for different careers, and family doctors say they don’t have the financial resources to deal with the demands of increasing numbers of elderly patients.

The president of the Royal College of GPs says that doctors, nurses and practice teams have been trying to do more and more with less and less, and that it is a situation that simply can’t continue.

Local hospital trusts are doing everything they can to cut costs by re-organising hospitals.

Some centralisation of services is unavoidable to improve care and reduce costs, but that means that small numbers of patients have to travel further to get the specialist care they need.

That is an unwelcome situation but it is unavoidable in the present difficult circumstances.

Jim Allan,

Hartlepool.