Skip to main content

The BMJ: “secure the NHS’s future”

The BMJ, the prestigious British Medical Journal, today calls on the next Health Secretary to “secure the NHS’s future”.

England’s NHS is stretched close to breaking point, say the BMJ editors.

The BMJ today calls on the next Secretary of State for Health to “secure the NHS’s future as the best and fairest health service in the world.”

In an open letter, Editor in chief, Dr Fiona Godlee, and colleagues say England’s NHS is stretched close to breaking point - and they set down what they believe is needed to heal the NHS.

They point to current problems, such as virtually flat-line funding in real terms since 2010, the growing demands of an aging population, and extreme cuts to social care, that have “exacerbated the pressures, causing knock-on effects across the service.”

As a result, waiting times for treatment are the longest for many years, while staff morale in many parts of the service is at rock bottom because of real terms pay cuts and the relentless workload, they write.

Patient safety is now also at risk, they warn, with 13 NHS trusts currently in special measures because of concerns about the quality of care being delivered - and eighty per cent of acute trusts are now in deficit.

They explain that in his five year plan, NHS England’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, demands savings of £22bn over the next five years. But say this level of saving “will still require efficiency gains never before achieved by the NHS, and a further £8bn is needed from government by 2020 just to stand still.”

And they point out that additional election promises - seven day working, guaranteed shorter access times, and more GPs and nurses - have been described by Mark Porter, the BMA’s chairman,  as “outlandish and unachievable.”

Against this background, the editors ask the Secretary of State to give “an unshakable commitment” to providing a publicly funded national health service, free at the point of need, and to resist the temptation to undertake further major top-down reorganisation.

They call for a focus on collaboration not competition and marketisation, for public health budgets to be ring fenced to protect vital services, and for “good transparent governance and less political interference.”

Finally, they urge the government “to properly fund England’s health service.”

They point out that the UK spends the joint lowest of any G7 country on healthcare as a proportion of gross domestic product, and the NHS is widely acknowledged to provide the most cost effective care of any developed nation. The NHS is not unaffordable, they say, but if it is deprived of the funds it needs to meet demand effectively, it could become so.

“History will not forgive another health secretary whose actions contribute to its decline,” they warn. “Let this be the five years that secure the NHS’s future as the best and fairest health service in the world.”

Responding to the BMJ's call for the next health secretary to 'secure the NHS's future', Dr Mark Porter, the Chair of the doctors organisation, the British Medical Association (BMA), said:

“The BMJ’s call for urgent action to secure the future of the NHS echoes those made by the BMA for a number of years. While staff have done as much as they can to protect and improve patient care, they are battling rising demand and years of underfunding that have left the NHS close to breaking point. This has been compounded by the costly and unnecessary reorganisation that distracted attention from the real issues and wasted millions of public money.

"Doctors on the ground are seeing first-hand how the pressures on the system are affecting the delivery of care across the NHS and the impact this is having on patients. The BMA's latest research has highlighted how 29 per cent of doctors have experienced a 'black alert' in their hospital and 48 per cent experiencing breaches in A&E targets. While our largest ever survey of GPs has shown that a third are considering retiring from general practice in the next five years at a time when politicians of all parties are trying to outbid each other on the number of new GPs they can magically produce in the next parliament.

“If we are to secure the NHS in the next parliament urgent action is needed to address the years of underfunding, the damaging marketisation of the NHS, the increasing recruitment and retention crisis and the health inequalities and major public health issues in our society.

"As part of the BMA’s ongoing No More Games campaign we have been calling for an end to the political game playing and the unrealistic pledges that have been a feature of this year’s election. Whoever holds the keys to No 10 after polling day has a duty to commit to having an open and honest public debate on the future of the NHS and how they expect to pay for it.”



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The lion and the wildebeest

Birds flock, fish school, bees swarm, but social being is more than simply sticking together.  Social groups enable specialisation and a sharing of abilities, and enhances ability, learning and creating new tricks. The more a group works together, the more effective they become as a team.  Chimpanzees learn from each other how to use stones to crack nuts, or sticks to get termites.  All around us we see cooperation and learning in nature.  Nature is inherently creative.  Pulling together becomes a rallying cry during a crisis.  We have heard it throughout the coronavirus pandemic.  "We are all in this together", a mantra that encourages people to adopt a common strategy. In an era of 'self-interest' and 'survival of the fittest,'  and 'selfish gene', we lose sight of the obvious conclusion from the evidence all around us.   Sticking together is more often the better approach.  This is valid for the lion as it is also for the wildebeest.   We don't

Noise pollution puts nature at risk

 "I just want a bit of peace and quiet!" Let's get away from all the hustle and bustle; the sound of endless traffic on the roads, of the trains on the railway, and the planes in the sky; the incessant drone; the noise. We live in a world of man-made noise; screeching, bellowing, on-and-on in an unmelodious cacophony.  This constant background noise has now become a significant health hazard.   With average background levels of 60 decibels, those who live in cities are often exposed to noise over 85 decibels, enough to cause significant hearing loss over time.  It causes stress, high blood pressure, headache and loss of sleep and poor health and well-being.   In nature, noise has content and significance.  From the roar of the lion, the laughing of a hyena,  communication is essential for life; as the warning of danger, for bonding as a group or a pair, finding a mate, or for establishing a position in a hierarchy - chattering works.  Staying in touch is vital to working

Therapeutic animal stress

Interacting with animals is known to be therapeutic,  particularly in reducing stress.  But do we consider sufficiently the effects this may have on the animals involved?   We might assume that because it is calming for us, then it must be so for the therapeutic animals, but is this so?  New research suggests that it isn't always without stress for the animals involved.  Positive human-animal interaction relates to changes in physiological variables both in humans and other animals, including a reduction of subjective psychological stress (fear, anxiety) and an increase of oxytocin levels in the brain.  It also reduces the 'stress' hormone, cortisol. Indeed, these biological responses have measurable clinical benefits.  Oxytocin has long been implicated in maternal bonding, sexual behaviour and social affiliation behaviours and in promoting a sense of well-being .  So far, so good.  We humans often turn to animals for stress relief, companionship, and even therapy.  We kno