Today we see continuous stories of the NHS struggling to cope and so it comes as no surprise that patient health is being compromised as result. A report by the King’s Fund showed “clear evidence that access to and quality of patient care has suffered” because of NHS shortages. The report by the think tank focussed on four areas in particular where rationing has affected patient care; sexual health services, district nursing, planned hip operations and neonatal care.
Ruth Robertson, lead author of the report said that “research shows that services like district nursing and sexual health, where we found evidence that access and quality are deteriorating…have been hit hardest by the financial pressures.” With regards to district nursing, the care of those who receive supervision and treatment in their homes; such as those who are housebound, suffering from a long-term illness or who are at the end of their life; has been affected by the budget cuts. Following the decrease in NHS expenditure there are 15% less district nurses compared with that in 2014. The report revealed that “the district nurses working at night are not able to give effective response times” which means patients are waiting up to eight hours for pain relief, subsequently having a “massive impact” on those living the last days of their lives.
A lack of staff, beds and funding has also had a negative effect on those requiring hip operations, with over 500,000 people on the waiting list for trauma and orthopaedics. In just one year, the amount of people who have been on the waiting list for hip surgery procedures for more than 18 months has risen by 45 per cent. Observations made by the report in October 2016 show that 62,577 patients had been waiting more than 18 months – an increase from 43,289 in the previous year. The average waiting time has increased by one week compared with the previous year. The NHS has attempted to deal with the influx of patients requiring hip surgery by utilising a criteria which allows only those in the worst discomfort to undergo the planned procedure. The Royal College of Surgeons warned that there were “alarming” restrictions, whereby patients were denied surgery on the NHS unless the pain left them unable to sleep or carry out daily tasks. The report raises concerns that even the most common procedures are becoming “unsustainable” as a result of the shortages.
But a spokesman for the Department of Health reassures that “the NHS is now doing 5,000 more operations every day compared to 2010, so accusations of inappropriate rationing are misplaced.”
Sally Green, Paralegal at the Medical Accident Group says, “It is promising to see that more operations are being carried out to tackle the ever-growing waiting lists, but if staff shortages aren’t resolved, I worry that quantity over quality will become the norm in a bid to reduce the waiting times. We deal with cases here at the Medical Accident Group where operations have been carried out negligently, and where effective and suitable care-plans have failed to be put in place following operations because staff simply aren’t available. If a patient doesn’t receive the correct after-care it could result in them requiring further operations, trapping the NHS and its patients in a vicious circle.”
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