Survindar Chahal FPM Content Manager

NHS 70 – Protecting the future of general practice

Surprisingly, it all began very quietly – less of a fanfare, more of a polite nod from the press about the launch of this new thing called a ‘National Health Service’. Seventy years on, it is now a part of our life blood and something that we can’t imagine being without.

The NHS has provided a consistently excellent service since its inception. We need to celebrate the lives saved and the huge leaps in care and science made by a British institution that’s as much a part of our culture and heritage as it is a governmental obligation.

The idea of uniting all of the doctors and hospitals in the land into a single institution with the sole purpose of keeping us alive and healthy will always be a shining example of putting people first.

As we all know though, the NHS has been facing what could be politely described as “challenges” – chronic underfunding, major understaffing and a Secretary of State who is constantly in a state of apology for not meeting safe targets, peddling a series of finger-pointing “statistics” that could put Donald Trump to shame.

Don’t get me wrong - I think the NHS is the greatest thing going and I will happily fight tooth and nail to keep it, but at some point we have to admit there is a problem that is just not being solved.

The problem isn’t the provision of care - it’s being able to provide the QUALITY of care.

A joint report by the Health Foundation, the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust said that the UK ‘appears to perform less well than similar countries on the overall rate at which people die when successful medical care could have saved their lives.’

The Government said the NHS would get £20bn in funding every year by 2023, before being immediately slapped down after claiming the imaginatively named “Brexit Dividend” would pay for most of it. In an interview, the owner of Wetherspoons (because who else would you trust with Brexit facts than the man who gave us the Thursday Curry Club?), claimed we’ll save £10bn a year after we leave the EU. Even if that turns out to be true, where does the rest of the money come from?

Higher taxes is the answer - when the sums were done it worked out to be nearly £4bn a year, significantly less than the rate of growth, and still leaving primary care in particular wondering what to do. Any cash is likely going to be used to plug the gaps from years of underfunding, leaving very little to spend on patient improvements.

The founding principles at the core of the NHS, and what the public will always expect, are for it to be free at the point of use, available to everyone who needs it, paid from general taxation and used responsibly.

There’s nothing controversial there, but the execution needs more work. The NHS can’t run well without GP practices, and practices can’t deliver without the wider NHS. An ageing population, the implementation of new technology and a more demanding and informed public are all increasing both expectations and demand.

Let’s solve the practical problems instead of having more political or ideological debates; people get sick, the NHS will help them get better. Start at the doctor’s surgery and then work your way up…

Stay tuned to the FPM Blog for all of the latest news that matters most to Practice Managers.

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