The National Health Service (NHS) is duty bound to provide all U.K. residents with the medical attention they need regardless of their ability to pay for it. For decades, this principle of tax-funded health care for every British citizen has been in place, and it has had its moments of challenge and turmoil. Today, however, the NHS is in a true state of crisis, which is having dismal effects on those who depend on it for care.
Each instance of inefficiency or failure to fully satisfy patients' needs is a "micro sign" of a failing system. On a more general level, however, we can note at least 12 "macro signs" of NHS decline. Those dozen disturbing trends are as follows:
1. General Agreement That the NHS is in Dire Straits
In the recent 2015 elections, there was little agreement on most issues, but regardless of the solutions offered, most could give the nod to the assertion that the NHS was in trouble. In fact, the NHS's woes are now common knowledge among the populace and a grave concern to many. Even the astrological community, represented by David Tredinnick in a recent news interview, is giving advice on how to fix the problems. Tredinnick's claim that training a new class of star-gazing physicians is the answer and that all who are "dismissive" of this approach are "bullies" may seem a bit over the top to most. Nonetheless, his comments reveal that in every nook and cranny of our society, the fact of an NHS crisis is simply assumed.
2. Long Waits for Diagnoses
NHS waiting lists are notoriously long, and they seem to growing ever longer. Even just to see a doctor for an initial diagnosis can take days or even weeks, and some diseases and conditions are very time-sensitive. Catching and countering your ailments early is sometimes half the battle, but there is little hope of winning it when you must rely on the backlogged NHS alone for assistance.
3. Long Waits for Operations
In April of 2015, a six-year high was hit- over three million people were left waiting for an operation for 18 weeks or longer. In May, cancer-treatment targets were missed for the first time since 2009. Disturbingly, non-emergency operations no uncommonly require a nine-month wait time. This is simply unacceptable.
4. Long Waits for Discharges
If getting into an NHS hospital for diagnosis and treatment is a challenge, getting out in a timely fashion sometimes is as well. There have been, of late, a record number of patients kept in hospital awaiting discharge simply because follow-up support in their local community was lacking.
5. Lack of Beds
Overcrowding is on the rise, and it brings with it a number of "side effects." One of these is a persistent shortage of hospital rooms and beds. Patients are now left to lie on a trolley in the hallway quite frequently, and this can only make recovery more difficult and the hospital stay rather unpleasant. Recovering in a private room with all the comforts of home, the norm for those with private health insurance, stands in stark contrast to the NHS scene.
6. Lack of a Second Opinion
As it is difficult enough to get scheduled for a first opinion, it is not surprising that getting your GP to agree to let you have a second opinion is precarious. An independent consultation costs hundreds of pounds, and the NHS does not have those extra pounds available for "extra" diagnoses at present.
7. Lack of Cutting-Edge Equipment and Care
While cutting-edge equipment, for sure, exists under the NHS system, it is far too rare. You may have to wait quite a while to gain access to modern tests, facilities, and medicines. An MRI scan, for example, may require a long wait, delaying your diagnosis and all that would follow it.
8. Lack of Specialists
Again, there are medical specialists to be had through the NHS, but they are too few to keep up with the demand. To get quick access to a specialty doctor, you may need to go through a private health plan.
9. Lack of GPs
Even general practitioner recruitment numbers are suffering. Family doctors are on the decline, and a dismal take-up rate for GP trainees is foreboding of a yet worse crisis to come.
10. Outsourced Cleaning Services
With hospital staff too busy with patient care to think about anything else, cleaning duties are now an inadequate job being done, which may account for the upsurge in MRSA and other "super bugs" at many NHS hospitals.
11. Cuts to Children's Mental Health
Cuts are occurring across the board, but particularly in areas deemed less essential like mental health. Even children's mental health has taken a hit. Some conditions, such as clinically diagnosed depression, attention deficit disorder, and anorexia have not been scaled back too badly. Children with other conditions, however, like trauma from bereavement, abuse, or domestic violence often go untreated.
12. NHS Hospital Financial Reports
While some blame the NHS problems listed above primarily on a lack of funding and others on an inefficient use of funds received, the fact that there is a budgetary crisis is clear to all. In the past, NHS financial reports would typically come in claiming a near-perfect balance between funds needed and received. This may have been done to avoid giving the impression that a hospital was, in the case of a surplus, receiving too much, or in the case of a deficit, spending irresponsibly. Now, many hospitals are admitting a deficit and announcing their need for further funding. Some take this as a sign of newfound honesty and others as a ploy to extract additional pounds from the taxpayer. Either way you look at it, though, it is not a sign of a healthy healthcare system.
All of the above dozen NHS problems will affect you greatly if you rely solely on the NHS to secure your future healthcare needs. When the NHS is backlogged and underfunded, you will be too. Getting a private medical insurance policy, however, will allow you to avert this crisis and provide for yourself, your family, or your business staff. Given the current state of the NHS, it is a wise move indeed to have a "backup plan."