This week we have heard from prominent and prominent medical names what our NHS needs to survive in the future. We have seen in black and white the future impact and long-term implications of outsourcing to private companies, the importance of planning infrastructure in advance, and what is needed to secure the financial future of the NHS.
We’ve heard firsthand what it’s like to work on the front lines of the NHS and what we need right now, just to get through tomorrow. Over the last few days, The independent he wrote the NHS revelation book and it is full of sad and frightening predictions.
Not to be entirely mystical, but coincidentally, while on vacation in Canada for the past few weeks, I saw one of the possible futures for healthcare in Britain that is often raised. While the setting is wonderful, overall, the picture of what the NHS could become is bleak. As a Canadian, I’m in a good position to explain why a combination of free, insurance, and private health care providers isn’t an answer to our problems across the pond.
Here in Canada, the system is free. That “ish” is pretty important. Hospital care, urgent care, family doctor appointments, surgery – that kind of care – are in fact free. But, a bit like a RyanAir flight to Lanzarote, the patient has to bear the costs of all those “extras”. And they add up.
Prescription drugs not administered in the hospital? Well, it’s up to you to cover the full market cost. Dental? The only option is private. The same goes for sight, rehabilitation medicine and physiotherapy. Do you have hearing problems? Hearing aids cost up to $ 3,000 per ear. Does your child need antibiotics? It’s best to hope you live somewhere like Ontario, because each province and territory has different rules on what it will cover and what it won’t cover “for free”.
If you live in the countryside, or are part of the First Nations community, just getting a family doctor can become a lifelong quest. Even if you find one, their list is probably already full. I won’t even begin to delve into the pay-per-service health system, but for those of you looking to Canada’s neighboring south, Gilead, as a possible future for the NHS: even in Canada, birth control isn’t free.
So, if we cannot individually pay for our way out of the problem, how can we safeguard the future of the NHS? Let’s start by recognizing two basic truths about the health of modern British society.
Firstly, even though we may be living longer these days, many of us now live that life with at least one long-term illness. As a result, we have an elderly and sick population that will need more doctors, more time in the clinic, more drugs, more care, more equipment and more beds than the system has had to handle before. Never.
As we have already heard this week, we need more money to invest in infrastructure and the workforce so that we can meet the needs of the NHS now and in the future. This is real money with real results. A major financial investment project for the nation’s future health.
We are also a sicker and poorer nation than we have been in a long time. After housing costs (which are rising uncontrollably thanks to the cost of living crisis), around 20 per cent of the entire British population lives in poverty. With deprivation being one of the key indications of future or current disease, or 13.4 million future patients waiting to be entered into the system. Most are, in all likelihood, already patient.
For this, we need to rethink the way we understand and treat health. For too long, personal responsibility has been allowed to hide health inequalities under the rug.
Read more from our series on “How to Cure the NHS” by clicking here
We must now openly address the relationship between wealth and health by linking the health system with the social care system. This means funding the social care system as an active and necessary arm of the health system. It may sound simple, but a well-funded social welfare system means beds aren’t locked, people can be comfortable in the community, and poor nutrition and energy poverty don’t contribute to the disease and don’t burden the NHS.
I don’t need a crystal ball to tell you that without explicit and limited financial support from the government, one day too soon we will have to make decisions between eating, warming up and healing.
In the beginning, the NHS tried to avoid the need to predict the future about our health. He promised to take care of us from cradle to grave. But, as a single parent, he did it with half the money and power of the people he needs. It is time for the government to maintain its maintenance for the nation and ensure the future health of its population.
Dr. Alexis Paton is Lecturer in Social Epidemiology and Sociology of Health and Co-Director of Aston University’s Center for Health and Society