The Independent London Newspaper
26th April 2019

NEW JOURNAL COMMENT: How many take a healthy interest in demise of NHS?

    Whittington Hospital

    A Whittington Hospital patient who should have been seen within 10 minutes languished in A&E for four hours

    Published: 19 August, 2016

    THE NHS is facing the end of its life – unless the government reverses its current drive to turn it into a privatised service.

    There is a glimmer of hope at the moment in a private members’ bill to repeal the source of all the trouble – the Health and Social Care Act engineered by Jeremy Hunt.

    This extraordinary bill, drawn up by Professor Allyson Pollock and Peter Roderick at Queen Mary University, has attracted growing cross-party support in the Commons. But realistically, in terms of hard-boiled parliamentary politics, the odds are against it.

    This week we heard of the shortage of experienced consultants in local A&E departments. Far too often, as a result, vacant posts are being filled by relatively inexperienced junior doctors, often locums, who inevitably struggle to cope with the ever-increasing demands of patients. The four-hour rule in which patients are supposed to be treated by doctors is often breached.

    At the Whittington Hospital a patient who should have been seen within 10 minutes languished in A&E for four hours before doctors were able to begin to treat him.

    Not only are patients being put at risk by the shortage of consultants but there is also the question of escalating costs as locums have to be paid considerably more – whether employed at the NHS scale of remuneration or the sky-high private rate.

    Both the Royal Free and Whittington are advertising for consultants but they are hard to come by. 

    Mistakes are more likely to be made as consultants, under the weight of the four-hour rule, find themselves rushing into decisions they are later to regret. 

    The root of the problem can be traced back to 2010 when the Whittington Hospital’s A&E was threatened with closure. A huge campaign was launched and, after many months of protest, it was spared. But the consequence was that Chase Farm Hospital’s A&E was closed instead, in 2013. 

    Tens of thousands of patients were redirected to the Whittington and also North Middlesex for emergency treatment. In June this year it was revealed that the North Middlesex A&E is facing closure over “safety concerns” that it is dangerously under-staffed. 

    It could be said that the public are unaware of the other bits of broken Britain. But that cannot be said of the NHS. The media rings out the warning bells almost daily – awful stories about the neglect of mental health patients, cancelled operations, neglect of dementia patients, refusal to cover the cost of life-saving drugs – all these are highlighted in newspapers and TV.

    The tragedy is that public apathy is allowing the tragedy to unfold.