Let me start by saying, I love the NHS. I love everything about it. The staff are brilliant. They do one of the hardest jobs in the world, and get a fraction of the reward they deserve. I love the very concept of a system that protects the most vulnerable. And like most people in the UK, I have a deep personal appreciation for the way they have cared for me and my family in our darkest times of need. It is with the same deep regret that I see the state of the NHS today. NHS Funding cuts have left it on life support.
Over the last few years, the situation has become increasingly desperate. Maybe the country should pay more attention to what our government is actually doing, as opposed to promises plastered on the side of a bus.
NHS funding cuts have stripped our health service to the bone
If any of you have been to a hospital recently, you will be familiar with scenes of patients languishing in the hallway. This is because between 2000 and 2020, the number of hospital beds has reduced from 240,000 to 160,000. This is a reduction of 33%. In the same time period the population has grown by 15%.
Find more statistics at Statista
But it doesn’t end at beds. Critical funding, provided at the height of COVID, has been withdrawn. This equates to a £15bn (roughly 10%) cut to funding. OK, this funding was only ever temporary, but this ignores three points. First, the pandemic is not over. Second, funding (and the structural change that follows) takes time to bed in. Withdrawing it arguably does more damage than never providing it in the first place. Third, the NHS was drastically underfunded to begin with. Estimates predict that it was suffering a shortfall of £10bn a few years ago. This is likely to have worsened given the pandemic.
Finally, the ambulance service. A 2020 report revealed that the service was suffering a funding shortfall of £240m. This is not a lot of money in terms of the economy. But it is an enormous sum when you consider that in total the Ambulance service only receives £1.8bn per year. This is a 13% shortfall. This wasn’t helped when last years HGV shortage led to Ministers asking paramedics to to take up long distance lorry driving.
Funding cuts have also hit NHS staff at the worst possible time
The big stuff is bad, but some of the funding cuts are just petty. It has been announced today that NHS staff are going to have to start paying for parking. This is completely unnecessary. It’s bad enough that patients have to pay to park, but to charge the people caring for us when we are sick is immoral. To do it during the biggest ever cost of living crisis is sadistic. And how much does this save? About £75m a year. Now remember that Boris Johnson promised to give the NHS £350m a week. 2 days would cover it.
But that’s not all. The government is also scrapping free COVID tests for NHS staff. Despite the fact that they are required to test for their jobs. Also, the pandemic is far from over and they more than anyone else are in the firing line. This will cost £600 a year and is another expense at a time when many are struggling to survive.
All this comes on top of a pathetically low pay rise for NHS staff of just 3%. Offset against inflation of 5.4% this is already a real pay cut. Offset against the above it’s a travesty. If Boris Johnson could get away with it, I have no doubt he’d pay the NHS staff entirely with “claps”.
This is starting to have a real impact on public health
One look at the news today shows the impact that this is having on people. Shrewsbury and Telford NHS trust has been rocked by scandal this last few days. Over 200 babies died and the story is absilutely devastating. Funding cuts absolutely played its part in driving a culture of cover ups with lethal consequences.
Cost cutting is also leading to rising ambulance wait times. Category 1 events, such as cardiac arrest, hit a record high last year averaging at nearly 10 minutes against a target of 7 minutes. Timing for “Urgent” calls average 3 hours 10 minutes, up from 2 hours 35. And remember, these are averages. There have been all too many cases where elderly patients have waited over 20 hours for an ambulance after a fall.
The impacts are obvious and devastating. The cuts have been systemic. And a barely veiled privatisation agenda threatens the health service with oblivion. The NHS is on life support, let’s hope that Boris Johnson goes before he can pull the plug.