Jeremy Hunt has accused GPs of being part of the winter pressure problem, and insisted they open their doors for longer. But is that really the cause of the NHS’s troubles?
The NHS, across the board, is under immense pressure. Hospitals are bulging at the seams, their corridors filled with patients waiting hours to be seen. A&E targets are being breached, and staff are at breaking point, unable to provide the care they want to because the system is broken.
Staff across the NHS have said it and now Simon Stevens has publicly said it.
So what is health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s response? It is to claim GPs are at least partly to blame because they don’t open their practices for long enough, leaving people with no choice but to head to their local A&E if they have a health issue.
“I fear Mr Hunt is looking in the wrong direction”
I won’t pretend that patients making inappropriate visits to their local emergency departments aren’t causing some of the current pressures. And Mr Hunt is right that the problems in hospitals are not entirely the result of what is going on inside those bricks and mortar establishments – he is correct to look beyond that, but I fear he is looking in the wrong direction.
Because the biggest issue is the cuts to social care – cuts made by local government but imposed by central government’s strategy. Patients can’t be discharged because the system outside the hospital doors is crumbling.
“This crisis is across the board”
If only one or two hospitals were in crisis it could be the result of poor management, they may be having problems attracting staff or need a new executive team to lead a new strategy. But this crisis is across the board. Every chief nurse I speak to is mucking in to do shifts this winter, all are terrified that their hospital might be the next scandal to hit the headlines because they are so short-staffed – and running on empty. Well then, Mr Hunt, it’s not their problem – it’s your problem.
Your government’s continued cuts have caused this pressure. And the situation isn’t going to get better without your government changing how it runs and funds the NHS. You can point fingers and play the blame game. You can even stop requiring hospitals to meet the four-hour A&E target, but ultimately, that won’t improve patient care. Only one thing will. More money – in both health and social care.
“Only one thing will improve patient care: more money”
If Mr Hunt wants to find a group to blame for the current crisis in the NHS, he shouldn’t be pointing fingers at GPs, or nurses, or ambulance drivers or any other healthcare professional. He needs to look no further than his own cabinet.