Buttercross, February 13, 2015: Spend now on the NHS so we can save later

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With another General Election close, battle lines are being drawn and the subject commanding most attention is the state of our NHS.

Since it was in 1948, we as a country have met the costs of thes service. But, over time, these same costs are spiralling ever upwards to a point when the service is becoming rapidly unsustainable as it is.

So, where now, especially in these times of austerity? Promises are being rolled out by politicians of all colours stating that the service is safe in their hands and that more funding will be found to ensure the satisfactory continuance of the service.

One problem is that we have an ever ageing population. Hospital admissions, especially at this time of year, increase, but available bed space appears to be decreasing.

One reason for this problem is what is commonly known as bed blocking, which happens when patients, mostly elderly, are well enough to be discharged but there is nowhere suitable, and with the appropriate care required, to send them.

Ambulances pile up at hospital entrances waiting for beds to be made available for their charges. One patient made national headlines by being housed in a store cupboard, not the worst place but far from ideal. These situations should not occur.

We hear a lot these days about ambulance response times but how can they be timed when patient “deliveries” are delayed, and how disheartening is all this for the crews involved.

It has been suggested recently that collating and publishing these response times is a poor use of funding already stretched. Far better to commit this money to front line services, with more nurses and doctors obviously being one top priority.

No doubt there is other bureaucracy in the form of red tape which could be simplified or, in some cases, done away with altogether. Many of us attending our local hospitals can only watch with incredulity the number of staff behind desks and constantly walking the corridors carrying files and paperwork. Surely in this electronic age it could, and should, be possible to plan out a more efficient way to better use staff time.

A recent suggestion from politicians is to more closely integrate medical care with social care, something that should have been thought about long before now, and there is a desperate need for more general practitioners to attend to our every day medical needs.

Once in place pressure will be less on the present 111 phone helpline, and more importantly, our hospital A & E departments.

More “home help” is also required for those that wish to spend their later years in their own homes. Bed blocking may then become a thing of the past.

All these requirements need adequate funding but, in the longer term, we would have a sustainable and efficient service that is fit for purpose and which then, overall, will certainly be cheaper.