NHS is financially unsustainable, says NAO

 

The NHS continues to be in crisis. According to the National Audit Office (NAO), the NHS is financially unsustainable. The Prime Minister’s plan to increase the NHS budget by £20.5 billion by 2023-2024 may not be sufficient enough to cover services such as social and mental health care.

According to NAO additional funding has been provided, however, it has been spent on existing pressures within the healthcare service. The Head of the National Audit Office Amyas Morse says:

The NHS has received extra funding, but this has mostly been used to cope with current pressures and has not provided the stable platform intended from which to transform services. Repeated short-term funding-boosts could turn into the new normal, when the public purse may be better served by a long-term funding settlement that provides a stable platform for sustained improvements.

In 2016-2017, the NHS received an additional £1.8 billion in Sustainability and Transformation Fund which also intended to give the NHS stability, to improve and transform performance and services in order to achieve a sustainable healthcare system. 

Although the fund has assisted in the overall financial improvement, the NHS is still struggling to achieve targets with its high demand and restricted budget.

Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth MP, responds to the NAO’s report on NHS financial sustainability:

The Tories have spent nine years running down the NHS, imposing the biggest cash squeeze in its history, with swingeing cuts to public health services and the slashing of social care services.

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen

The NAO report has come as a surprise to some as the news of an additional £20.5 billion was the Government’s proposed solution to the NHS crisis. However, the NAO report indicates that the money may not be sufficient enough as other areas of the health service have been neglected for years.  This is a great indicator that simply throwing money at a system is not a solution. There needs to be a strategic plan to improve a system that the majority of public members rely on. Waiting times continue to slip and there is an increasing problem with the workforce. The NHS cannot work for the public if it does not have the right amount of workers.

These are the same issues we had for years yet, we still have no solution.  As previously reported NHS Leaders were forced to delay publication of long term plans due to the Brexit chaos. The current Government’s focus is not its people.

The Government needs a reminder of what the NHS set out to do when it was established in 1948 following the Second World War. The principles were to provide a universal and comprehensive service. Currently, the NHS is failing at providing a comprehensive service however, this is not because they refuse to but because they do not have the necessary backing from the Government to provide the public with an efficient service.

Opinion: Government failing people at risk of HIV

Recent reports would suggest that legislative measures to tackle the issue of HIV have been largely successful in England. But there is a major issue that must be addressed – PrEP.

 

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a pill that can protect users from HIV. If used regularly and alongside other forms of contraception, it can be extremely beneficial to users and can allow a positive and negative partner to engage safely in sexual relations, without fear of contracting HIV.

 

PrEP is currently available through NHS Scotland. NHS Wales have initiated a three-year trial called ‘PrEPARED’ and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland are offering the drug through a project that will last two years – with no cap on numbers. What about England? The drug is only available at selected clinics and is limited to 13,000 ‘high risk’ individuals in England.

 

Currently a postcode lottery and poverty are limiting access, these factors should not determine whether a person can be effectively protected against HIV. It is also cost effective to offer this preventive medication to all requiring it, as it is far cheaper to offer a preventive pill than treat an individual for a lifetime if the individual contracts HIV/AIDS.

 

‘we have the resources to minimise the spread of this devastating disease’ – Thomas Howard, Editor at TPN

 

HIV/AIDS is a disease that is life-changing and life-threatening, and we have the resources to minimise the spread of this devastating disease – it’s a shame that this drug is not widely available through NHS England.

 

‘We can bring an end to HIV’ – Prince Harry

 

It was moving to hear Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Member of Parliament, stand and announce that he was HIV positive during a debate in the House of Commons. Prince Harry, an advocate for awareness, has also claimed that ‘[w]e can bring an end to HIV’. It seems that the support is there, but we require immediate action from our Government – implementing a universal rollout of PrEP will help to eliminate HIV in the United Kingdom.

 

In response to these concerns I have launched an online petition calling on Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, to ‘Give us PrEP in England’ – please click here to sign the petition.

How Serious are Food Allergies?

It’s a simple question, but it must be addressed:

Our society has a tendency to frown upon inconvenience and often fails to cater for the needs of marginalised groups, including those suffering from food intolerances and allergies. This begs the question, are they serious or can we just ignore them?

The attitudes taken by some catering outlets suggests that food allergies are an inconvenience and that there is no need to manage operations in a way to ensure that allergen information is highlighted. Recent stories reiterate the problems facing those suffering with dietary requirements including intolerances and allergies. It is estimated that around two million people are living with a diagnosed food allergy in the United Kingdom.

However, this estimate does not include the number of individuals with food intolerances or coeliac disease, hence the actual figure of those requiring specific labelling is far higher than this figure suggests. It seems that the actual figure of those with requirements is often undermined and these figures offer no indication of those without a formal diagnosis. It is often a difficult process to be formally diagnosed, with individuals in the East of England often having to travel to Cambridge to be assessed by specialists at Addenbrookes Hospital.

Fresh produce is often the main issue for those suffering with allergies and intolerances, as there is often limited information regarding ingredients. For example, Tesco offers a diverse range of freshly baked pastries in-store but fail to provide an easily accessible list of ingredients. Other supermarkets commit the same form of neglect and often by-pass criticism by having a sign notifying customers that allergy information can be accessed upon request – which is easy, right? Sadly not, as it is often difficult to find a member of staff in the relevant department to provide this information to customers. It seems that these signs often serve the purpose of avoiding liability – in a similar way to some ‘may contain’ notices on food packaging.

Campaigns for greater awareness and for legislative action are often ignored, as there is a fundamental lack of education surrounding the requirements of those with intolerances and allergies. It often takes a tragedy to inspire real legislative change which is a condemnation of our society. These issues have been ongoing for decades and are not recent – as has suggested by media coverage of recent issues with British Airways and Pret following the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse.

My own experience from last year:

I have personally been misled by packaging at an outlet at my former university in the East of England. It stated the ingredients, but to my surprise the actual content did not match the listed content. I was initially treated in a way that suggested it was not a big issue and that changing the labels in future would fully resolve the situation. It seems that staff lacked an insight into the consequence of food allergies. One bite could have led to an allergic reaction, although unlikely to be fatal it would have been uncomfortable and would have required urgent medical attention. I urged staff to withdraw all contaminated produce and examine the root causes of this issue. It seemed that, after campaigning and a near fatal incident with another individual, staff were open to a thorough review of fresh items.

So, what is it like to have an allergic reaction?

Well, the severity of a reaction varies from person to person with some only experiencing mild symptoms that require little attention. However, others can be subjected to excruciating pain which requires medicinal relief or a trip to a local A&E. It is not a pleasant experience and the truth of the matter is that allergic reactions are avoidable. If someone is suffering from a reaction, then it is always best to dial 999. Complications can only be avoided if all those in the supply chain fulfil their moral obligations. Is it hard to list all ingredients and to notify consumers of potential dangers? I feel that this issue has been neglected for too long and that there is a simple solution to all these cases – I hope that real legislative changes occur, and that justice is served to all those victims of neglect and institutional oversight.