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

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba

The secret life of Giant Pandas

Giant pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca , have usually been regarded as solitary creatures, coming together only to mate; but recent studies have begun to reveal a secret social life for these enigmatic bears.  GPS tracking shows they cross each others path more often than previously thought, and spend time together.  What we don't know is what they are doing when together.  Photo by  Sid Balachandran  on  Unsplash For such large mammals, pandas have relatively small home ranges. Perhaps this is no surprise. Pandas feed almost exclusively on bamboo. The only real threat to pandas has come from humans. No wonder then that the panda is the symbol of the WWF.  Pandas communicate with one another through vocalization and scent marking. They spray urine, claw tree trunks and rub against objects to mark their paths, yet they do not appear to be territorial as individuals.  Pandas are 99% vegetarian, but, oddly, their digestive system is more typical of a carnivore. For the 1% of their diet

Work Capability Assessments cause suffering for the mentally ill

People suffering from mental health problems are often the most vulnerable when seeking help. Mental health can have a major impact on work, housing, relationships and finances. The Work Capability Assessments (WCA) thus present a particular challenge to those suffering mental illness.  The mentally ill also are often the least able to present their case. Staff involved in assessments lack sufficient expertise or training to understand mental health issues and how they affect capability. Because of  concerns that Work Capability Assessments will have a particularly detrimental effect on the mentally ill,  an  e-petition  on the government web site calls on the Department of Work and Pensions to exclude people with complex mental health problems such as paranoid schizophrenia and personality disorders. Problems with the WCA  have been highlighted in general by the fact that up to 78% of 'fit to work' decisions are  being overturned on appeal. It is all to the good that they