Great Britain: A healthcare system on the brink

Status: 08/05/2022 08:37

Years of waiting for operations, a growing shortage of general practitioners: the state of the British NHS health service is dire. The focus is mainly on the rescue service.

By Mareike Aden, ARD Studio London

When 18-year-old Jamie Rees, who lives near Birmingham, goes into sudden cardiac arrest on New Year’s Eve, her friends call 911. But the ambulances take too long to arrive, almost twice as long as the NHS says for these kinds of emergencies. Jamie dies in the hospital days later. On the BBC, his mother recounts his pain:

We were told that 32 ambulances were on duty that night, but 17 of them had to wait outside a hospital to unload patients. The first few minutes are the most important, Jamie would have needed a defibrillator and oxygen quickly. If the other patients had been able to get to the hospital faster, an ambulance would have gotten to Jamie sooner and he would have been helped.

It’s a vicious cycle that also weighs heavily on those who want to save lives: Claire Pullan, who works as a paramedic in the North West of England, always stands in front of the hospital for hours before she can hand off patients and drive to the next emergency. . “Many have to wait a long time for us. Those who are alone are afraid, and it is also bad for relatives, ”she says. “But there’s nothing we can do about it. Even if it’s our fault. All I can do is apologize when I’m there and move on.”

“These could be your grandparents”

In the event of a heart attack or stroke, an ambulance should be with the patient within 18 minutes. But figures published by the NHS itself show that they currently take an average of 40 minutes. In the south west of England, it even averages nearly an hour.

In a survey by the GMB union, which also represents emergency workers, 85 percent of those surveyed said they had witnessed delays that had negative consequences for patients. For Demi Leigh O’Leary, who answers emergency phone calls at a switchboard, this is sad everyday life:

When an old man lies on the floor all night and we have to say it takes 12.5 hours to get there, you think: They can be your own grandparents. You hear that they have drifted away, that it is becoming more and more difficult for them to breathe. It’s really bad.

Healthy people often cannot be discharged

Pullan and O’Leary appear in an ITV television documentary: the NHS itself had opened the doors to the camera crew to explain its own overload. Because even in the corridors of hospitals the wait goes on for hours. There are simply no beds available.

The reasons for this also lie outside the hospital, says Sarah Scobie of the Nuffield Trust, a foundation that looks at healthcare in the UK. “Half or even less than half of the people who are healthy enough to be laid off can be laid off,” she says. Because there are no places in nursing homes or social care services in the communities.

More than 12,000 hospital doctors are missing

The pandemic and an aging population are straining the system and the biggest staffing crisis in NHS history. The latter was the conclusion of the parliamentary health committee in the House of Commons in London at the end of July. In England alone, there are 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives. This is one of the reasons why there has been a record backlog of planned operations and treatments at the hospital: around 6.6 million people are currently waiting across the country.

The leader of the Parliamentary Health Committee, Conservative Jeremy Hunt, said the country should stick to the tax-funded NHS as a matter of principle. “Every country will have higher health care costs due to an aging population and due to new treatment options.” In the USA you would pay more private contributions, in Germany or the Netherlands more insurance contributions and in Great Britain, for example, more taxes. “In order for us to pay for that, we need a healthy and growing economy.”

Hunt, who left early in the party’s internal competition to succeed Johnson, is also calling for his own party to focus more on the NHS and its problems. But in the Conservatives’ internal duel for the job of prime minister and Johnson’s successor, candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are currently barely talking about the NHS, mostly about tax cuts.

The NHS health service is at its limit

Mareike Aden, ARD London, August 5, 2022 07:51 am

Regina Anderson

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