THE ONCE PRAISED National Health Service is struggling to keep up with the demand of the ever-growing population and the decline of doctors and GPs. Ironically, this decline is being caused by the stress placed from the huge demand of the ageing population.
In order to cut costs, a number of A&E units throughout the country have been closed, meaning the pressure on the ones remaining has become even greater. This ‘ageing’ population, in which almost everyone is living much longer than has been the case in the past, has resulted in more age-related illnesses and places more strain on hospitals. Coupled with the shortage of doctors at the A&E units that remain, the workload for the staff is constantly on the rise.
The NHS are now attempting to combat this major concern by initiating a phase they call ‘integration’, where they team up with social services provided by local councils. This may be an opportunity to provide more GPs, but the problem still remains that there aren’t enough of them to begin with. Melvin Gamp regularly inspects hospitals in the UK, and is somewhat an expert on healthcare in the country.
‘As most people are now aware, there is a general shortage of GPs within the UK. This is because of political decisions made in the past, by whichever party was in power at the time. So we have fewer “home produced” doctors, and more imported ones, from all over the world.
‘Some were (and still are) excellent, and others could literally kill you, by neglect or lack of knowledge. So, belatedly, it was decided to allow more doctors to be trained here. Unfortunately, this can take at least six years, plus another couple of years if one wishes to be a GP!’
Melvin believes ‘home produced’ doctors are crucial to the success of the NHS because patients need to have good communication with their doctors so that their health problems do not reoccur and more people can be seen quicker.
This comes as UKIP leader, Nigel Farage spoke out recently about how the National Health Service has become the ‘International Health Service’, and that only fluently English speaking doctors should be given jobs in the industry. Farage claims UKIP would remove doctors who could not speak English properly if they were to come to power, in order to increase productivity and treat patients effectively.
Mike Foster, Press Officer for NHS Employers, said measures are in place to ensure that their staff can speak the expected amount of English. ‘Effective English language skills and broader communication ability are essential to giving quality care in the NHS. Employers take measures to assure themselves about the ability of staff to communicate and Responsible Officers have a duty to ensure it happens.
‘The NHS recently welcomed a new law which gives the General Medical Council additional powers to check the English language skills of licenced doctors. The law will help make processes more efficient, especially in some cases where complexity or uncertainty has been a challenge, and should reassure patients that good standards are in place’.
Additionally, Melvin is predicting the current situation to worsen in the near future. He believes that early retirement, maternity leave and migration could all play a part with regards to the decline of GPs in the UK.
‘Now comes the even more interesting part; many GPs will shortly be retiring at the same or similar time; causing a bigger shortage. Coupled with this, there is a great increase in the number of women who are becoming doctors. But, and it’s a big but, many of these wish to start families, and their practices will suffer accordingly.
‘One other aspect, which should be mentioned, is that many of our expensively trained doctors, decide to emigrate to places like, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, where they find the way of life (and reduced pressures) much more acceptable!’
Melvin also explained that 40 per cent of patients who attend A&E only do so as they are unable to get a prompt appointment at their local GP. He believes he has the solution to the country’s problems, but says in order for it to work, the NHS must focus on recruiting and training more doctors – which we currently don’t have.
‘The obvious arrangement (if they had sufficient doctors) would be to have a GP unit adjacent to (or within) the A&E to deal with the 40 per cent who were unable to see their own GPs, thus allowing the balance of 60 per cent to flow more efficiently through the A&E clinics’.
2015 is set to be an important year for the NHS, with many political debates regarding which direction the health service should be taken in. With this spring’s election looming, there will almost certainly be impending changes in the coming months.