The NHS winter crisis happens every year. I wrote about it first in 2011, and the subject has become a regular annual blog. The 2019-2020 season is nothing new, except that it has had two distinguishing features.
- The General Election of December 2019 saw all the main political parties falling over each other to promise NHS more and more £billions because the NHS was on its knees.
- The Coronavirus epidemic has drawn attention away from just how bad patient care has been during this winter.
I will not repeat my argument here, or the evidence to support it here. If anyone wants to do so, and to trace this sorry story I suggest that you put in a search above - "NHS Crisis" - and that will bring up all my blogs written over the last decade on these crises.
It is BBC News that has come up with statistics supporting this year's sorry story, one which never changes, regardless of how much additional money is ploughed into the NHS. "Sickest NHS Patients 'face hours on trolleys'." They based their analysis on NHS England data.
"Many of the most seriously ill patients are waiting for hours on trolleys and in corridors as the NHS struggles to find them beds, BBC research shows. Nearly a quarter of patients admitted on to wards during December and January in England faced delays of more than four hours before a bed could be found. It has created a backlog outside hospitals with patients brought in by ambulance facing long waits too."
The BBC stated that 199,000 patients had four-hour 'trolley waits' in hospital corridors after being seen in A&E (no mention about how long that wait was) and before a bed could be found, and that this was more than twice the numbers seen 4 years ago. In some hospitals 50% of patients had waited more than four hours.The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is quoted saying the situation was unacceptable, that treating patients in this way was undignified, and put them at risk.
NHS England, speaking in their defence, said that extra money was being invested which would help hospitals recruit staff and cut waiting times.
Indeed, there is always 'extra money' but a BBC graph demonstrates just how the problem has escalated since I first wrote about the NHS crisis in 2011. Then there was about 20,000 patients waiting in trolleys for over 4 hours. So in 8 years this number has grown ten-fold.
And, as usual, year by year, there is no analysis about why the crisis is happening; just concern this year the coronavirus epidemic was likely to make the situation a lot worse. Even the usual, routine excuses - under-funding, an ageing population - et al - are not to be found in the BBC article, although they will no doubt be trotted out again, when necessary.
So I repeat. The NHS crisis has nothing to do with funding, or an ageing population. As I have argued, at length, elsewhere, this is a medical failure. It is one of the clearest signs that pharmaceutical medicine, which dominates the NHS, is failing, not only in its inability to make sick people better, but actually making them sicker. The queues never get shorter - they get longer.
So no doubt I will return with another crisis bulletin for the winter of 2020-2021, with exactly the same message!