Waiting times have long been a problem for the NHS. Under relatively recent Labour governments, overseen by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, we had seen waiting times fall. However, as we all know, they have been rising again under the recent Conservative governments.
Previously patients would have had little option other than to grin and bear it, but there is a trend that is becoming apparent. Instead of seeing the waiting time through and grasping at hope that they will be seen before their condition becomes more serious, patients are opting to pay for private treatment.
These are patients who do not have private health insurance but prefer to pay for the one-off operation, or treatment they need, than withstand the seemingly endless wait. The figure for patients choosing this route is rising by 25% each year.
In short, the NHS is in disarray with waiting times having seemingly been thrown out of the window. Recently each month has seen the NHS miss its targets for treating hospital emergency patients within four hours of arrival. Overall the NHS needs another 40,000 nurses while it is losing GPs at a rate of 400 a month. As mentioned in other articles, Brexit is not doing the NHS any favours either.
In an act of desperation the health service has announced that it intends to pay recruitment agencies to find the NHS another 3,000 GPs. The estimated bill for this: £100,000,000.
Where the money will come from is only one of the major questions the NHS faces.
People are living longer and so the demand for care is outstripping that of previous decades. Meanwhile the funding cuts to social care and public health means that the difficulty the NHS found itself in was not nipped in the bud. Instead it was allowed to fester until it has now reached a crisis point. Not resolving the cash shortage when it first appeared has led to a much larger funding problem.
Compared to other comparable countries, such as France and Sweden, we can see that Britain spends significantly less on the health service. Instead its healthcare spend is more on a par with that of Spain or Portugal where citizens are poorer than their UK counterparts.
Health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, continues to claim that there are still savings the NHS can make in order to make up the shortfall in funding. However, studies continue to find that the NHS already provides a supremely efficient healthcare service.
With all these factors suspicion is rife that the NHS is being deliberately stretched and set up to fail so it can be easily privatised with much less resistance.
Those who can afford it are already switching to private treatment. Those who cannot afford it may be left with a health service crumbling due to lack of investment.