Monday, 15 July 2013
Is Scotland's NHS Fit For Purpose? No.
The images say 'get involved' and 'it's your NHS'. Many people get involved volunteering in hospitals but it's certainly not our NHS. It belongs to accountants, managers and the elite who sit on local health boards.
How does the present Scottish (and possibly English) NHS prioritise consultant appointments? Could it be by the number of consultants we have in a specific area or are they arranged to fit with targets? Perhaps a little of both these reasons and others too.
Originally this post was to highlight the lack of success the UK has, in comparison with many EU countries, in treating many cancers, but it's now personal.
A dear friend found a lump in her breast the evening of Thursday 27 June. By luck we managed to see her doctor the following day and her doctor said she would made urgent application for an appointment with a consultant at either of our local hospitals. The appointment has arrived and it is to be Wednesday 31 July - four weeks and two days from seeing her GP. Meanwhile she has to struggle with the mental stress of the wait, while she also copes with a long term serious back issue; a result of being an efficient PE teacher for many years.
In last Friday's Scottish Daily Mail there was an article (unfortunately not online), which highlighted the plight of couples who wait months for IVF treatment on the NHS. It seems the legal profession have become involved and intend to sue the Scottish Government for the delay caused to certain couples.
Yesterday I spoke with another friend who has been working in a Scottish A & E department because it was short staffed owing to sickness and holidays. She is a fully qualified intensive care nurse. Although she doesn't know my retired PE teacher personally, she is aware of her prolonged health problems and naturally I told her of the latest development. In her professional capacity she replied nearly 5 weeks was well within the 6-week target set by government for urgent appoints, but then gave her personal opinion.
The NHS needs to be completely rebuilt. In Scotland we provide world-reknowned training for doctors and have plenty completing courses year after year. Yet our hospitals don't have enough medics because it's health boards which decide how many are required and their figures do not necessarily result from supply and demand, but cost. So urgent requests for appointments with cancer specialists are treated as quickly as possible but with too few consultants available to reduce the waiting time.
I asked what would have happened if she had gone to A & E to say she'd found a lump on her breast. The reply was that she would have been told to make an appointment with her GP who would then decide if she required to see a consultant. But, toothache, ingrown toenails, staved thumbs, sore throats, vomiting due to drunkenness are just a tiny sample of problems which receive immediate attention at A & E.
Obviously patients with heart related problems take priority over most - because minutes can be invaluable in some cases - but why can't cancer patients be treated with a similar urgency? The stress of waiting must be hellish for many and each day must feel like a week or longer.
I think finding a lump anywhere requires immediate attention and if a GP suggests it requires urgent investigation, we should have a system where the patient receives just that. Other Europeans countries offer a far superior cancer services so why can't we? It's not a question of money because vast amounts of money has been ploughed into the NHS and services in some areas have not improved.
If we want the best health service in the western world, we need to reorganise our priorities and start offering full services outside of the Monday to Friday 9 - 5 system. Shamefully, machinery lies idle in all our hospitals from 5pm on Fridays until 9am on Mondays - a third of a week.
We have the people to give us a top quality service, but refuse to employ them and thus many go to work in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the middle east. These countries and others get the benefits of their training while Scottish hospitals are left short staffed and with specialists unable to see an 'urgent' cancer case for nearly 5 weeks.