AS the Prime Minister rearranges the deck chairs in the Cabinet Office, the gigantic task of “fixing” the NHS remains on hold.
Covid has brought it to the boiling point, but now it’s back to boiling in its own juices of mismanagement, financial waste and unacceptably long waiting lists.
This week it was announced that management consultancy McKinsey has launched a “review” into why the number of patients being treated has consistently remained the same despite higher NHS budgets and more staff.
Just what we need.
A costly, navel-gazing exercise to tell us what we already know – that the NHS urgently needs fundamental reform.
In 1948, 13-year-old Sylvia Diggory was her first patient in Manchester.
She had severe liver disease, her parents couldn’t afford the treatment she needed and without the NHS she could have died.
This year, around 12,000 patients died unnecessarily from January to July after having to wait long periods in the emergency room.
So will new Health Minister Victoria Atkins be the one to sort out this expensive mess?
After all, there is a general election coming up, and every time a governing party makes even the slightest mention of moving to the NHS, their political opponents shout loud “leave our angels alone” claims in a cynical point-scoring exercise.
Yes, NHS staff across the country are doing an amazing job, but the system in which they operate is broken and it does no one any favors to pretend otherwise.
A few weeks ago my mother broke three ribs in a fall and we ended up in the insanely busy emergency department at St George’s Hospital in south London.
From a cubicle in the triage area, I was able to observe what the predominantly young (and very pleasant) staff had to deal with every evening.
And it’s not pretty.
Two doors down, two prison guards stood guarding a cubicle with God knows who in it, while next to them stood a couple of police officers and a man who, judging by his powdered face, was involved in a fight.
On the other side, a young woman who was either high or mentally ill or both kept jumping out of her bed and swinging dangerously in front of the overhead light.
Each time a paramedic would come in to calm her down, and minutes later she would do it again.
Meanwhile, a disheveled, obviously drunk or drugged woman suddenly threw herself on the floor and began writhing and screaming.
It took five of them to calm her down enough to be lifted.
The wonderful, admirably patient staff are trained to save lives, but on this particular evening their time was mostly occupied with crowd management.
Considering that the NHS was created for those in need of medical intervention to relieve pain or death, it appears that the remit has shifted somewhat and is now picking up the slack for severely underfunded social care.
Therefore, I suggest that Ms. Atkins, even though she is still largely unknown and therefore able to slip under the radar, should find a way to join A&E as a regular customer and judge for herself, Secret Millionaire style, what corrections need to be made .
Firstly, GPs need to stop hiding behind their computers and get back to treating patients face-to-face in central community centers with nurses, physiotherapists and services such as x-rays and ultrasounds to filter out those who can be treated without referral to hospital .
This would help the 76 percent of older people who have difficulty getting an in-person appointment with a family doctor, according to a survey released this week, and the 18 percent who end up having to go to their overwhelmed local emergency room instead.
For those admitted to hospital for surgery but not yet ready to leave the hospital, the return of convalescent homes would free up an acute care bed and minimize the risk of going home too early and suffering a setback.
Other obvious solutions would include more beds across the board, more specialized psychiatric care units, less top-heavy management, flexible working hours to avoid losing female doctors when they have babies, and better pay and working conditions to retain experienced staff.
These employees, in turn, would have the seniority and confidence to limit excessive and often unnecessary testing and overprescribing of medications.
Oh, and somewhere in any hospital you can drop off any crutches/walkers you no longer need so they can be disinfected and used again.
These solutions would not cure all NHS ills, but they would put our health service on the road to recovery.
So it’s time to actually tackle this political football rather than keep throwing it into the long grass.
It will take a bipartisan political effort to convince unions and the public to accept the reform this ailing institution needs to survive.
For the benefit of the NHS patients and its overworked angels.
SKILLS NOT A SEX MATTER
CHARITY Endometriosis South Coast is under fire from women’s rights activists over the appointment of a trans woman as its new chief executive.
Helen Joyce, head of advocacy at campaign group Sex Matters, said: “Women who have suffered the pain of endometriosis, an under-appreciated women’s health problem, deserve better.”
But no one assumes that the CEO of Oxfam has ever experienced poverty, right?
Or that the CEO of Guide Dogs for the Blind is actually blind?
What is certainly crucial is that Steph Richards has the skills to run the charity effectively and hopefully ensure that endometriosis does not remain “under-recognized” for much longer.
The Tories are not on our side
AFTER the reshuffle, Tory grandee Michael Heseltine boasts: “We have our party back.”
Which, in short, makes it clear why the Tories will lose the next election.
A political party is not one of the privileged few who want to prove their right to be right at flashy soirées among like-minded people.
It must appeal to ordinary people who feel that, amidst the multitude of Cabinet ministers, there is someone at the table who speaks for them.
It was Red Wall voters in the first place who gave the Conservatives their 80-seat majority, and it will be the same ones who embroiled them in what can only be described as well-deserved obscurity after 13 years of infighting and inaction .
LAYTON GOES STRICTLY AHEAD
LAYTON WILLIAMS’ Argentine tango with partner Nikita Kuzmin on Strictly deservedly received a near-perfect score at the weekend.
It was captivating, beautifully choreographed and, unless you’re Craig Revel Horwood, seemingly flawless.
The 29-year-old is the favorite to win but he has rejected claims that his previous dancing experience in stage shows such as Billy Elliot The Musical gives him an unfair advantage.
“Honestly, if I had auditioned for the Royal Ballet School they would have laughed at me,” he says.
“My feet don’t show. These hips don’t fall out. I’m the type to fake it until you make it.”
But perfecting your dance moves is only a small part of the Strictly experience, and for complete amateurs (like Krishnan Guru-Murthy, who went out on Sunday) it’s about quickly getting out of your comfort zone, memorizing fiendishly complex dance routines and getting deep into them to immerse yourself in the material to find the theater artist in you.
Layton already has all of this in his arsenal.
That’s fine. After all, it is an entertainment show.
But let’s not pretend the ground is flat.
NO APPLICATION TO OUR TASKS
As if arguments over money weren’t enough, a digital bank called Starling has come up with a task calculator.
“Track your unpaid household chores and see how you compare,” it says loosely, pointing out that only 29 percent of couples share responsibilities equally.
About the Share The Load tracker, it adds: “You can use it to have important conversations about dividing household chores equally.”
In other words: fiery arguments.