Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Waiting, waiting……..

People are entitled to make their own judgement on David Cameron’s assertion that the NHS is safe with the Conservatives. However, his government’s mid-term review confirmed, as a matter of fact, that he had broken his promise to maintain the NHS budget.

The uncomfortable reality is that thousands of patients in England are being denied treatment and kept off NHS waiting lists because of new government restrictions on cataracts, hip and knee surgery and other serious treatments. Astonishingly, Ministers have boasted of lower waiting lists for these treatments, but neglect to say that this is because they have stopped people getting on the waiting lists in the first place.

Since 2010, there has been a 20% increase in the number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment, and the number of people waiting more than 4 hours for treatment in Accident and Emergency departments has doubled. Unsurprisingly, the NHS has now missed its A&E target for 15 weeks in a row.

The 7000 fewer nurses has undoubtedly contributed to the increasing numbers of both cancelled operations and postponed outpatient appointments. Nearly a quarter of outpatient appointments are now being cancelled and changed to a later date.

After a decade of progress and investment in cancer care, there was a decrease in spending on cancer services last year with further decreases this year and next. Just as worrying is that the collaboration between all parts of the NHS, essential to tackling cancer, is now being fragmented under the government’s massive top-down reorganization. Yes, another broken promise.

Unfortunately for Mr Cameron, he can’t increase the length of pregnancies. So his failure to keep another promise – to recruit 3000 more midwives – has meant that midwives are now delivering more, rather than fewer, babies than they were in 2010.

In all areas of public service, we are seeing massive transfers of funds from the poorest to the wealthiest parts of England; this is most obvious in the local government finance settlement. The government also wanted to do this with NHS funds. Fortunately, in December, the NHS Commissioning Board refused to comply, saying “this would have moved resources from areas where people sadly have worse health outcomes to those where people have much better outcomes. It’s hard to see how that fits with our mission.”
But watch this space. The government isn’t giving up.