I went through just about every emotion there is watching BBC2’s new series Hospital which follows events and pressures at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. Partly because some of what was shown is just a bit too close to my recent experience, partly because of the life and death decisions made every day with too few resources, I was in tears several times. One man awaiting cancer surgery is told at the last minute that they don’t know if they will be able to operate because there isn’t an Intensive Care bed available for him.
This comes as every news bulletin carries ever more harrowing accounts of the pressures in hospitals at the moment. What is the response of the Minister responsible? To blame the public. He talked saying that 30% of A & E patients don’t need to be there as if it is their fault that they have no other option. If people could get GP appointments or had community pharmacies to go to, they would never need to go to A & E. Whose fault is it that they have no alternative? Step forward Mr Hunt.
The Tories are increasingly following the example of the SNP and blaming anyone else for their own failings. It’s not the first time that Hunt has tried to pin the blame on somebody else. Remember when he said the junior doctors’ strike was the fault of the Labour party? Couldn’t be anything to do with the way he handled it.
Hunt’s latest bid to win friends amongst the stressed and under-resourced people who make up our health service is to threaten already stretched GP surgeries with funding cuts if they don’t open for longer hours. This would all be fine if there were actually enough doctors. Figures last year showed a 2% drop in the number of GPs in 2015. At 11.7%, GP vacancy rates are at record high levels.
Norman Lamb took Hunt to task over this plan, calling on him to train new doctors, not to make scapegoats out of the existing ones:
The Government’s plan is wholly unrealistic. We must face the reality that there is a chronic lack of doctors to cover the current crisis in the NHS.
Punishing GP surgeries already struggling is no way to fix the system. The Government must give the NHS the resources it needs to train and recruit new doctors not use the existing ones as scapegoats for their own mismanagement.
Only the Liberal Democrats are prepared to make the case that we may need to raise taxes to pay for NHS and social care in the long-term, and ensure patients get the treatment and care they deserve.
We must be prepared to work together through an NHS and Care Convention. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has agreed to meet to discuss this proposal. It is vital that the Government acts rather than sleepwalking towards the edge of the precipice.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings