NHS Cuts Threaten Patient Care
The Law Of… funding the NHS
With the NHS stuck in the news for all the wrong reasons, Daxa Patel, a Medical Negligence Partner with Simpson Millar, discusses the devastating effects underfunding is having on patient care.
Not a day seems to go by without the NHS hitting the headlines.
While an estimated 250,000 march on London in protest at the effects austerity is having on the health service's ability to function safely, and the British Medical Association (BMA) calls for an extra £10billion in annual funding, the government kicks its heels, refusing to acknowledge the unfolding NHS crisis as its future hangs in the balance.
Meet The Needs Of Everyone
The current crisis has led to NHS delays which have put the lives of patients at risk. This has had an impact at all levels, from missed treatments and postponed surgical procedures to ambulance services failing to cope with increased demand – an investigation finding that only 1 of 13 was hitting the 8 minute target for attending life-threatening callouts.
The problem lies in a lack of money – what some have described as the result of an ideological attack on this longstanding institution, by the very people responsible for protecting it and ensuring its continued good health. Starved of much needed funds, the NHS is left vulnerable, affecting the quality of care it can offer, which impacts on those who really matter, the patients.
As one of the founding principles of the NHS states, it is there to meet the needs of everyone. Sadly, this is getting harder to maintain in its current cash-strapped state.
A Sustained Fall In NHS Spending
Cases of medical negligence are an inevitable consequence of a shortfall in funding and the worry is that they will become more and more frequent as the money dries up and medical resources, along with those working on the frontline, are stretched closer and closer to breaking point.
Patients4NHS, an awareness group set up to highlight the problems the NHS is facing due to cuts, states that spending on the service has undergone the biggest sustained fall of any period since 1951. Adjusted for inflation, the annual spend has increased by only 0.9%, which is a dramatic reduction on the 3.7% which, historically, has been the standard growth rate. Furthermore, once NHS-specific inflation has been factored in, the increase falls further to an actual figure of 0.2% per year.
While this is happening, demand for services continues to increase as well as the cost to the NHS of medical treatments.
Take into account other measures undermining the health service’s ability to perform, including:
- The £4.6billion cut to social care budgets since 2011
- A £200million cut to local authority health budgets, which provide funding for screening services, school nurses and similar necessities
- The £2billion annual cost to the NHS for privately financed initiative (PFI) hospitals…
…and you have the perfect storm for a crisis that will continue to have a detrimental effect on the care that patients receive.
"The NHS lives and dies by the care it provides to patients. When patients begin to suffer, the calls for greater private investment in the service, from those with vested interests and their enablers in positions of power, gain traction."
"This can't be allowed to happen. The NHS was founded on three core principles: that it meets the needs of everyone; is free at the point of delivery and is based on clinical need, not the ability to pay. These principles are compromised as soon as private interests take precedence, along with a service where the focus is no longer on patient care but shareholder profits."
"If this lack of proper funding is not addressed by those responsible for looking after the service, we will have a situation where substandard care and delays in treatment become the norm, as opposed to the exception. In fact we are already witnessing more medical negligence claims"
"At Simpson Millar, we deal with too many clinical negligence claims that arise as a result of delayed treatment – where a prompt response would have resulted in a more positive outcome for the patient. Timing is essential, particularly as far as cancer patients and the elderly are concerned, as the swifter the reaction, the greater impact it will have on their quality of life."
"Positive action from those who control the purse strings is needed and needed forthwith, to not only remedy the sickness threatening to cripple the NHS, but also to show they are committed to its ongoing survival."