On almost every measure, the NHS in Greater Manchester is in a worse position than this time last year. And as we enter winter, this spells bad news. Last winter was the worst for a generation with A&E waits hitting their highest levels since targets were introduced in 2004.
But the pressures are now spreading to other parts of the system. Once in hospital, doctors are finding it difficult to discharge patients because the support services in the community needed for the most vulnerable are not available. Waits for diagnostic tests are lengthening and the key cancer targets have not been met for quite some time. There is now clear evidence that the cuts to social care are not only devastating for the lives of vulnerable older people, but are having a knock-on effect on the NHS.
Even on routine GP appointments, elective hospital treatment – hips and knees – the signs are not good. The weather may be mild, but winter has come early for the NHS.
The rising problems come as junior doctors, consultants, and GPs are in dispute with government about their new contract. I won’t be surprised, if we see the first ever industrial action by junior doctors in the New Year. And as we see DevoManc, the mother of all NHS reorganisations in Greater Manchester shape up, the challenges will be even more so, because we will not be able to go to the Treasury with Oliver’s begging bowl and say ‘I want more’.
We will also have to consume our own smoke as has been demonstrated by the Judicial Review over Healthier Together, initiated by the consultants at Wythenshawe Hospital. NHS staff who take pride in their institutions will guard them with passion. Mental health services, which are already struggling under the strain of demand, historically inadequate funding and incompetent commissioning decisions, will not achieve parity at least in my life time. And the problem might get even worse before it gets better.
Doctors, nurses and other frontline staff are working flat out, but the system simply can’t cope with the numbers and complexity of patients coming through the door. Staff are left frustrated that time pressures and excessive workloads mean they can’t deliver the quality of care that they want to for their patients. We have already seen staff shortages, quite simply because where the NHS was served by generation of family members, this is no longer the case as it has become less attractive in pay and conditions than other industries.
Looking ahead, in the short-term at least, it seems that Greater Manchester Devolution leadership is getting the message on challenges facing Greater Manchester NHS. While the NHS will be a key reforming issue next year, it’s crucial that it doesn’t become a political playing field.
In the longer term, the scale of the challenge facing the Greater Manchester NHS is eye-watering. One in three people in our region are aged over 50. The number of over 65s is expected to increase by 50per cent in the next 20 years. By 2020, a third of Mancunians are projected to be obese. Remarkable advances in healthcare mean people are living longer and survival rates for diseases such as cancer are improving.
But this also means more people are living with life-long conditions, such as diabetes, and have complex medical needs. Unless we find a sustainable way of dealing with an unprecedented rise in demand, our health service will not be able to cope.
If the NHS is to survive, then we need to get back to basics – a health service which is properly funded, adequately staffed, with patients and clinicians in the driving seat. Healthcare which is public, integrated, not a two tier, part-privatised health market. It’s not too late to turn things around, but if we don’t act now, it soon will be.
My message to you is that you ensure you make your health a top priority. That is the best way to look after the NHS as well !
More Below From : Dr Kailash Chand OBE: