Our NHS. For the past 74 years we have been privileged to be provided with a public funded healthcare service that has been recognised many times as “the world’s best healthcare system”. However, a system that is fuelled solely on the goodwill of people cannot be forever sustained. Strikes, cancellations, long waiting times, a global pandemic, low pay, burn-out and high levels of low mental health among NHS workers is the pitiable reality we face today.
What has happened for so much to go so wrong? In short, the lack of government spending. In 2017 it was reported that the UK was trailing behind EU countries in terms of spending. Germany had twice as many nurses per capita and naturally were better equipped to deal with beds and patients. Moreover, it is reported that the money being spent on the NHS is being swallowed up with no real change being had. However, there are other factors that have attributed to the current NHS crisis. An aging population with 11 million people aged 65 or over. Whilst a high life expectancy is a positive result of the modern-day science we have today, the rise in older people in our population will inevitably cost the NHS more money on drugs and services. Adding to this, the cost of care for the elderly comes with a large price tag. There is an ever-growing issue regarding social care and as of 2020 36.5% of elderly people were cared for by family and friends and worryingly 30% received no care at all. Job vacancies – there is a new record of 133,000 unfilled posts in the NHS adding to the workload of the sustaining employees. The NHS has prided itself on being free at the point of service and sorrowfully that is no longer looking to be a viable option due to the pressures in place. All of this has amalgamated into mass concern regarding the mental health of NHS workers with more than 360 GPs leaving the NHS since 2021 and around 48% of junior doctors choosing not to carry on with medicine as a profession.
The NHS is slowly collapsing and for the first time in the 120-year history of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), nurses are going on strike, with 100,000 nurses expected to go on strike. The RCN has said that nurses have endured a real term pay cut of 20% since 2010 with 25,000 nurses leaving the health service over the past year. They have accused the government of “belligerence” as Steven Barclay refused to talk about pay with Pat Cullen, the general secretary, suggesting that the government shows little remorse for the current predicament of the NHS. Essentially, strikes happening mean that services will be reduced therefore non-essential work will be inhibited and only critical work will still take place.
No NHS worker will be thrilled by the process of striking, but action needs to be taken to ultimately save and preserve our NHS.