HEALTH: The NHS is seriously underfunded

Dr Jack Czauderna
Dr Jack Czauderna
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This is dedicated to all those who are working in our seven day NHS over the Christmas period.

The 2016 Veracity Index, an annual national measure of which roles in society are most trusted, has recently been released by pollsters.

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At the top of the poll come nurses.

Ninety three per cent of the public trust nurses and 91 per cent trust doctors.

At the bottom of the poll are politicians at 15 per cent and Government ministers are trusted by only 20 percent of the population.

This is of course a poll and in this ‘Post Truth’ environment you may not believe it.

After all pollsters only score 49 per cent in their own poll. But who would you go to for trustworthy information and advice about any aspect of your health?

Not a politician and certainly not a government minister.

In fact in the dispute with the Junior Doctors this year why would you believe anything Jeremy Hunt has been saying?

As well as doing their day jobs and nights on call, the junior doctors have been fulfilling their public health role in pointing out to government and politicians the truth about the NHS at the present time.

That truth is that the NHS is seriously underfunded and that all the workforce, not just doctors, are undervalued, demoralised and unable to continue to provide the care required and the care they want to provide.

Indeed this is true for all staff working in the NHS.

There are not enough of them and for the first time in my memory people are thinking twice about becoming health workers.

There were unfilled places at medical schools this year, 75 per cent of paramedics were thinking of quitting the NHS and in Sheffield this autumn the number of applicants for doctor training posts, including generally sought after orthopaedic placements, fell dramatically.

Why have people been so tolerant of Jeremy Hunt’s appeals for a seven day NHS when we know that staff work over the whole week and indeed will be staffing necessary care over the Christmas period?

This level of cover can barely be maintained at the moment let alone any plan to introduce routine operations, hospital clinics or GP surgeries at weekends.

Junior doctors tried to get these messages across to government.

From their point of view the situation is unsafe, unfair and unsustainable.

But they have not been listened to.

When people are not listened to they take whatever action they feel appropriate until they are heard.

When I worked as a GP some patients would return to see me frequently and if they did not feel that their problems were being taken seriously would find other ways of being heard, perhaps by going to A&E departments. Developing a good relationship with the patient was always the first step.

Jeremy Hunt is not keen on developing good relationships with staff in the NHS.

He does not value the workforce and certainly not the junior doctors and as a result the dispute escalated into strike action.

You will remember the days of action over the last year and the huge public support they received.

I do not believe that people contemplate strike action lightly and doctors are not known for their militancy.

However, the support for strike action was overwhelming.

At the beginning 98 per cent of balloted Junior Doctors supported strike action.

The strikes themselves were carried out carefully and safely.

I do not know of any example of serious risk to health or death as a result of the strike action.

Nevertheless the escalation of strike action proposed more recently was seen as a step too far.

Jeremy Hunt added to his history of ‘economies with the truth’ when challenged in court.

Contradicting all his previous statements, he said he never intended to ‘impose a contract only to recommend one’.

This was reported in the media as a victory for Hunt whereas in fact it was a climb down by him.

The dispute has not been resolved and will inevitably resurface next year.

More industrial action is not ruled out.

Other groups of health workers are also demanding to be heard.

The consultant doctors’ contract is under review. GPs’ working lives are unsustainable.

Terms and conditions for all staff are under review.

Perhaps we shall see all NHS staff out on the streets next year.

If so, we shall be out there with them.

Let’s honour and thank all those people working on our behalf over the Christmas and New Year period.