Tony Blair thinks we all have to take more responsibility for our own health
to relieve pressure on the NHS. As the article says, the NHS is under increasing financial pressure, despite the fact that the labour government has pumped money into it to bring it back up to standard after years of tory neglect. The problem is, that more money is never enough, as more people require more & more expensive treatments, for more ailments and for longer lives.
When the NHS was set up after the war, it was designed to treat inuries and curable illnesses. Nowadays, with higher life expectancies, more treatments to manage illnesses and genetic conditions, and an aging and less healthy population, it has grown into an all-encompasing service.
With a mother & sister employed by the NHS, a diabetic & psoriaritic husband & a BiL with CF, the NHS is something I regularly come into contact with. I am completely in favour of it, and of the budget it takes up. Howver, I do think that we need to re-evaluate what healthcare consists of if we are going to sustain the institution.
I was discussing this with a member of our group who is an A&E consultant. He said that part of the problem is that Dr's have convinced the world that they can cure/treat everything, so patients are always expecting their Dr's to give them something, and if that something doesn't work, to give them something else. Sometimes, there really is nothing medical science can do, but we are spending fortunes on drugs that are probably basically placebo's.
I have long thought that one of the problems with modern life is the belief that we should all feel perfect all the time. Life isn't like that. things hurt. Bits of you go wrong. Occasionally we get sick. In most cases, it's nothing other than life. I hear it all the time from friends "I just feel so tired all the time. There must be something wrong. the Dr has checked for anaemia, and thyroid, and ME, and GF, but they all came back negative, but it must be something, so I'm asking for a scan, and X drugs, and a second opinion, and..., and....." Maybe, just maybe, you are tired because you don't get enough sleep! How many £billions are wasted doing pointless tests & giving out unecessary drugs?
Of course, the vast majority of all hospital beds in the country are taken up by people who shouldn't be there. Ask any hospital manager what the problem is & they will tell you about bed-blockers. Usually old people who are unable to care for themselves. Most require some medical intervention to keep them alive, some just need to be fed, cleaned etc. I am a strong supporter of euthenasia. Many of these people are literally being kept alive just because we can, not because it is good for anyone, including them. If you can not move, can not communicate, can not eat, and can not interact with the world in any way, what is the point of staying alive? Would YOU want to be stuck behind your own eyes, staring at a ceiling for 5 or 6 years? Even if inside your brain is working (which is unlikely in many cases)? these people are not going to get any better. Even if we have some amazing medical breakthroughs, so why waste time, money & beds, as well as emotional stress? I'm all for safeguards, but it absolutely should be posible to treat our parents as well as we treat our pets, and offer them peace when/if the time comes.
Also, as those of you you have read my utopian world posts know, I do not believe the NHS should pay for medical "lifestyle choices". These include plastic surgery for non-physical reasons (however much your 14 year old's small breasts are depressing her!), tattoo removal (even if you were stupid enough to have one on your face!), gender re-assignment (we're all trapped in bodies that are not how we imagine them), or IVF (it's not your RIGHT to have biological children.). Accept your life as it is, or pay for it to be done privately. And yes, that leads to differences in lifestyle for rich and poor. I kind of think there are a few other differences already though!
Finally, stffing is a real issue. Like all big institutions, an enormous % of all funds go on salaries. Current policy for dealing with this is to sack as many as possible & not recruit for empty posts. this just leads to staff shortages, which lead to stress & low morale, which lead to resignations & more staff shortages, which lead to stress & sickness, leading to staff shortages, leading to more sickness etc etc etc. "Stress has become one of the biggest causes of staff sickness and costs the NHS (£400-£500million) every year."
It is cheaper in the long term to have a fully staffed, well motivated workforce, than to pay out fortunes in sickness, early retirement & recruitment costs. Although I am sure there is scope for cutting some of the managers;-) I do believe good management is key to cost savings too.
On the plus side, for patients there is absolutely no doubt that the NHS has massively improved over the past decade or so. Both in what is available and in the attitude of the Dr's;-) I remember taking an 8 year old child to casualty with an impact to the head & complaining of neck pain, and waiting on foot (not enough chairs, no beds) for 12 hours to be seen. i remember phoning an ambulance and being put on hold (honestly). i remember phoning my GP for an emergency appointement and being told that the first one available was 3 weeks away. None of that would ever happen today! Patient satisfaction levels are rising
across the country, and waiting times are falling.
We have one of the most cost effective healthcare systems in Europe (read the whole article,
fascinating!) costing approx. £750 per person per year. Compare that to say, Germany at £1286, or the USA
($6280)!!! We also beat the USA on infant mortality rates, and life expectancy! so much for the costs of socialised medicine!