When the NHS was established in 1948, it both was and still is the only system of its kind which gives an entire nation free healthcare. However, over the years various cutbacks have needed to be made and due to this and the changing needs of the UK’s population, I believe that the fall of the NHS is not too far over the horizon.
There has been controversy today because David Cameron suggested that trainee nurses need to first work as healthcare assistants in order to improve standards of healthcare. This would be a fantastic action to take had the country been overrun with nurses. However, 71% of senior nurses questioned for a survey said that they were not comfortable the staffing levels were always adequate. If the process of actually becoming a staff member becomes even longer, hospitals are going to be even more over-stretched for staff. Unless more people are encouraged to become nurses and work for hospitals, the lack of staff will become a problem, considering the rising population.
Despite the fact that the NHS also provides bursaries to encourage students to take courses such as nursing or midwifery, the rise in tuition fees has certainly put students off going to university in the first place. Another problem is the competitive nature of the courses – I have read about midwifery courses which offer no more than 20 places. If the NHS is so short-staffed, more places and opportunities to train and work for it need to be provided. Furthermore, if anyone regularly watches hospital programmes on the TV, all the characters appear to moan about sometimes is how little they can afford and how poor their pay is. I don’t know how realistic this impression is, however, this stereotype must have come from somewhere and if there is such a negative image in the media, people will naturally be put off pursuing a career of this kind.
In addition to this, the recession and the cutbacks the government is making has also become a massive problem in terms of development for the NHS. In countries where private healthcare is the norm, phrases such as “postcode lottery” and “waiting list” simply don’t exist. When we learn about groundbreaking scientific research these days, such as the baby cured of HIV and the new ‘man-made’ kidney, we never hear of these developments having anything to do with the UK. In fact, most of the best developments in medicine in the UK actually appear to occur in universities, where students pay for their degree, and this in turn funds scientific research. The funding needs to come from somewhere, and if it can’t come from the government then other sources need to be used.
I also believe that there are many things that the government needs to take advantage of in order to make the NHS more effective. For example, personally I think that organ donation should be an opt-out rather than opt-in requirement – if anyone is against it, they would find the time and effort to opt-out for themselves and their children. I know many people who aren’t organ donors purely because they haven’t even thought about it, and organ donation numbers could be increased greatly if the government brought this suggestion in. Also, those who don’t pay tax should be considered. I have a friend who is from Singapore, and she once told me that although her parents have never paid taxes towards the NHS, they still get free healthcare. She also interestingly said that her family would rather pay for their healthcare as they are used to doing so in Singapore, as they think that it’s the fair way of doing things if they don’t pay the taxes others do. I’m sure other families like hers would agree. Her dad even made a donation to the hospital he was treated in because he felt like he should contribute in some way. If the NHS charged people who don’t pay tax for healthcare even a small amount, it would boost its finance and help prevent its collapse.
Finally, the NHS is struggling because of the changing population. The first problem is that people are living longer, and are therefore having more illnesses which need to be treated – Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer. These need far more funding for patients to be cured, treated and cared for. A further problem is the increase in literal size of the population: the need for bigger ambulances, wards and even methods of moving extremely overweight people to get them to hospital is creating more expense, and that’s without the added health issues that come along with obesity. These kind of problems are greatly increasing the expenditure and cost of the NHS.
For all these reasons and many more – even just the fact that too many people visit the doctor for unnecessary reasons such as the common cold – I can honestly see the fall of the NHS happening sooner rather than later, unless the government decides to make some drastic changes. But watch this space.