Great Britain: A healthcare system on the edge

Status: 08/05/2022 08:37

Years of waiting for operations, a growing shortage of general practitioners: the state of Britain’s NHS health service is alarming. 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 ambulances take too long to arrive, nearly twice the NHS estimate for these kinds of emergencies. Jamie dies in hospital days later. On the BBC, his mother tells of 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 received help.

It’s a vicious cycle that also weighs on those who want to save lives: Claire Pullan, who works as a paramedic in the north-west of England, always stands outside the hospital for hours before she can deliver 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 case 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 almost an hour.

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

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

Healthy people often cannot be discharged

Pullan and O’Leary appear in an ITV 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 lasts for hours. There are simply no beds available.

The reasons for this lie outside the hospital as well, 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, 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives are missing. This is one of the reasons why there has been a record backlog of planned hospital operations and treatments: around 6.6 million people are currently waiting across the country.

The leader of the Parliamentary Health Committee, the Conservative Jeremy Hunt, said the country should stick to the tax-funded NHS as a matter of principle. “Each country will have more 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 afford that, we need a healthy and growing economy.”

Hunt, who left early in the internal party race to succeed Johnson, is also calling on his own party to focus more on the NHS and its problems. But in the internal partisan duel of the Conservatives for the position of Prime Minister and successor to Johnson, he speaks Contestants Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss hardly about the NHS at the moment, but all about tax cuts.

Regina Anderson

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