Many of our clients have experienced delays in receiving the medical treatment that they need because of the overwhelming problems that the NHS currently faces. The obvious problems caused by Covid have been exacerbated by several issues:
- A failure to invest in social care has led to ‘bed blocking’, so patients who otherwise would be ready to be discharged from hospital cannot be moved to a care home or back to their own home with support because there are simply not the staff to meet their needs. This in turn prevents patients who need treatment from being admitted to hospital.
- Delays with GP appointments mean that patients with serious health issues are not being seen quickly enough. The shortage of GPs is predicted to worsen over the next decade so unless action is taken, the situation will worsen.
- Around 46,000 nursing posts are currently unfilled. This seems unlikely to change unless low morale and nurses’ salaries are addressed.
According to the BMA, in December 2020, around 7.2 million people were waiting for treatment and a record high of 3.1 million had been waiting for more than 18 weeks. Worryingly, only 80.3% of patients referred urgently by a GP to a consultant because of suspected cancer are seen within 2 weeks (against a target of 93%) and only 73% start treatment within 2 months of screening.
There can be a reluctance to take action against the NHS but if the organisation is not held to account, it is less likely in our view that the Government will invest properly in nurses’ salaries, the infrastructure required and social care so that the NHS can begin to clear backlogs and fix the problems that it faces.