• A growing and serious crisis is enveloping our NHS

    5th September 2016 | News | Claire
  • And Devon is at the very heart of it.

    It is a crisis that is borne out of many years of successive governments messing about with our health service.  In the 10 years that I worked in the NHS under the Labour government, there were two major wasteful reorganisations. 

    Since I left the health service in 2008, the difficulties in recruiting and retaining clinical staff has rapidly escalated. 

    And funding has been steadily eroded.

    GPs are leaving the profession in their droves, there is a mass exodus of nurses – and now junior doctors are said to be reconsidering their positions, with many of those who previously wanted to pursue a career in medicine said to be thinking again.

    The government will now (disastrously) remove nurse training bursaries, which is bound to discourage further trainees from applying. 

    The annual growth funding increase, which used to be around 6 per cent each year has, under the last two conservative governments, flatlined.  It comes at a time of more pressure than ever before with more older people who have complex health needs among us. This is especially so in Devon.

    On top of this, the conservative government has demanded £22bn of so called efficiency savings. Or cuts, of course. 

    The much vaunted £8bn promised to the NHS will only be supplied if NHS trusts slash £22bn first. 

    Where from you might wonder?  Ask the staff, many of whom are tearing their hair out trying to do an immensely demanding job without adequate resources.

    Nationally, alarming and damaging cuts are already taking place, which could easily be replicated in Devon, as we live in one of the top three financially health areas in the country.

    Accident and Emergency departments are being closed overnight as a result of staffing problems, with potentially catastrophic consequences as people will need to travel further for life saving treatment.

    Across the health service, a deficit of £460m was racked up in the first quarter of 2016/17. But this was only possible thanks to a cash injection of £450m over the same period.

    Last year the NHS nationally reported a record deficit of £2.45bn.  The disastrous health and social care act, which sold our health service down the river, cost £3bn.

    Locally, across Devon if financial problems are not addressed by 2020, our health service will be in debt to the tune of around £440m.

    The RD&E NHS Trust alone, has a £20m deficit.

    The Royal Cornwall Hospital’s director of finance Karl Simkins told the Western Morning News earlier this year that the financial landscape was “challenging”.
    He said: “We planned for a £5.5 million deficit and have ended the year with a £6.9 million deficit,”
    “The financial position is as challenging as it has ever been.”

    A government task force has been drafted in to Devon to radically reduce the debt by cutting services.

    As a member of Devon County Council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee, I am anxiously awaiting what is on the agenda. Plans are set to be published and consulted on shortly.

    Councillors are expecting there to be some significant and worrying cuts proposed.

    Last month a public consultation was launched in South Devon on closing and selling off four community hospitals.

    The team running the Success Regime already seem to be diminishing the role of community hospitals in their documentation I have seen so far.  They claim that community hospitals,  such as at Sidmouth, Ottery St Mary, Seaton, Exmouth, Honiton and Axminster, do not alleviate bed pressures at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital!  This is counter intuitive and completely contrary to everything I have heard from medics and nurses up until now.

    Ottery St Mary and Axminster Hospitals have already lost their beds of course and Exmouth Hospital looks like it will lose its overnight GP out of hours service.

    All of this (and whatever else is to come) is at a time of unprecedented pressure – on beds – on staffing – and on services in general.

    A major injection of funding is required to avoid major and widespread closures of services and hospital departments.

    This government is, in my opinion, using the austerity argument to deliberately weaken our NHS for their own ideological reasons. They simply don’t believe in the state provision of public services. 

    Ministers have made a clear choice on how they spend our money. Public services are being slowly and steadily dismantled, while big business continues to enjoy preferential treatment.

    David Cameron said in 2010 that he would protect the NHS. 

    We need to hold our conservative MPs to account on this.