Who’s running our NHS? It’s not doctors, it’s not nurses and it’s certainly not the patients. In fact, for quite some time now our NHS been governed by people with backgrounds completely outside of the healthcare sector. During the top-down restructuring of NHS management over the past two decades, senior doctors and on-site managers have been slowly replaced by business people, market-officials and bankers. The political forces in Parliament are trying to turn healthcare into a commercial industry; a service driven by profits and margins instead of patient care.
It’s this top-down management that has inevitable lead to the catastrophic failures of care in our NHS. Understaffing caused by market short-sightedness at the top has undoubtedly been the primary cause of the alarming pressures our hospital wards are now experiencing. Patient neglect and mistreatment have also been in the headlines as of late; are these isolated or institutionalfailures? With the consistency of reports coming in, I’d be inclined to conclude the latter. Our nurses are being pushed more and more towards strict quantitative targets – being forced to forget about the fundamentals of good quality healthcare.
Lots of these issues can be put down to the changing culture within our National Health Service. Once upon a time our hospitals were committed to an ethos of universal, comprehensive care – that message has definitely been lost over the past 20 or so years. Managing budgets and efficiency has unfortunately become the top priority for hospitals and GPs, ultimately creatingtough scenarios where providers have to compromise with care or face governmental action. On one hand we’ve got quality commission boards enforcing increasing standards, yet on the other hand our hospitals are pressured with stagnating budgets and micromanagement. These contradictions are what I believe to be the causes of NHS failures in recent years.
But what’s the solution? Firstly, we need to bring real experienced doctors and nurses to proper management positions within our NHS. These are people who genuinely appreciate the struggles facing hospitals across the UK – in contrast to the current board of directors who have absolutely no experience in the day-to-day running of hospitals. Secondly, we need a bigger budget for our NHS – a move easily funded by clamping down on corporate tax. With a larger budget, hospitals will be able to spend more on staff and work towards reducing waiting times and the quality of care delivered to patients.
There is a simple choice of philosophy being presented to our NHS. Does the service continue to be a profit-driven, commercial market of healthcare? Or will it revive itself to become an institution based upon universality and compassionate care once again? To ordinary people like me and you, the answer to the NHS’s problems is actually quite simple. However, there are unfortunately some very malicious people sitting in Parliament at the moment – defending market interests over the needs of the British people. The current state of our NHS is a sad reflection of the profit-driven nature of a market obsessed society.
Backbench Minister for Health