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NHS in crisis: Is the UK healthcare service at breaking point?

Doctor looking stressed
27th March 2015

Over 90% of medical professionals have concerns about the standard of treatment offered by the National Health Service (NHS) according to the British Health Report 2015.  Yet despite these concerns, 81% of the general public say they feel safe in the hands of the NHS.

According to The British Health Report 2015 (a survey of 400 doctors and over 1300 consumers commissioned by Your Legal Friend, a leading firm of personal injury and medical negligence solicitors), 69% of medical professionals feel the NHS is in poor health, with 42% believing it is struggling to ensure high standards of care. Yet 90% of patients have confidence in the medical treatment they receive from the NHS.

So why is there so much concern among healthcare professionals and why does this differ so much from the public’s view? In this post, we’ll run through some of the key statistics and attempt to demystify this gulf in opinion.

What’s wrong?

For most of us, it wouldn’t come as any great surprise to know that our doctors and nurses are not 100% satisfied with the state of British healthcare. In addition to the obvious claims of lack of resources, healthcare professionals point to an increasingly ageing population, greater expectations of what the NHS can deliver, and abuse of the system by patients as key factors that significantly contribute to the perception of underfunding.   

To combat these issues, 55% of healthcare professionals feel that the NHS needs further investment to prevent standards of care falling further, with 26% believing this additional investment is needed urgently.

One of the key issues for medical professionals is variability in the standard of care provided, with 50% believing that standards range from high to inadequate within the same area and even within the same hospital. 

Almost two thirds of professionals (63%) are also extremely concerned that there is a lack of bed space which they feel has a knock-on effect on waiting times, patient satisfaction, risk of infection and even mortality rates.  This concern is felt most keenly by surgeons (78%) as a lack of bed space can be a major contributor to delaying operations.

General Practitioners (GPs) are actually the most pessimistic about the state of the NHS, with almost three quarters (73%) of those surveyed believing the service to be in either poor or very poor health. However GPs are not alone in their concerns, with other healthcare professionals reporting feeling similarly disillusioned, including:

  • Seven in 10 (71%) surgeons
  • Over two thirds (66%) of consultants
  • 54% of specialists

The public’s trust

Considering the overwhelming pessimism felt by healthcare professionals, it’s surprising to report that, in contrast, the public are exceptionally positive about the NHS. Despite the healthcare professionals’ grumblings, the report found that the health service is actually held in high esteem and trusted.

81% of the public feel they are in safe hands in an NHS hospital, with a quarter (25%) feeling they are in extremely safe hands. Interestingly this perception of safety and trust varies by gender and age.  More men than women (87% versus 77%) feel safe in the NHS and more older people feel extremely safe (31% of  the 55+ age group versus 19% of the 25-34 year olds).

But what about the 19% of people who do not feel in safe hands?  They main reasons cited by this group include speed or quality of service, misdiagnosis by professionals or the inability to diagnose their illness, and negative past experiences suffered by themselves or family members.

So who do we trust the most?  GPs came out on top (28%), followed by consultants and physicians (21%) and surgeons (13%). Sadly, nurses did not score highly on trust (7%) and midwives were even lower (6%).

Laura Morgan, Director of Medical Negligence at Your Legal Friend, commented: “The British Health Report demonstrates that patients have genuine trust in the British healthcare system. Whilst medical professionals may feel they are in a midst of a crisis, they must be commended for providing unwavering care to patients. It’s clear that the majority of the public love the NHS and admire the care it provides to those in need.

“However, the British Health Report does show there are underlying issues that could have a damaging impact on patient welfare. We call on the Government to listen to medical professionals working at the coal face of medical care and address standards now. Patients have the right to high quality treatment and support yet it is clear that the quality of care that medical professionals can provide is at serious risk.  If this is not addressed, for some unfortunate people, it could lead to devastating consequences.”

About Your Legal Friend

Your Legal Friend is one of the UK’s leading personal injury and negligence firms, offering a range of legal services and advice to the victims of personal injury, including motor vehicle accidents, cycle accidents, passenger transport accidents, motorbike accidents and work related injuries; medical negligence, and professional negligence.

Your Legal Friend is part of 2020 Legal Limited, which also trades as Camps Solicitors. 2020 Legal Limited has over 30 years’ experience working with the victims of non-fault claims and accidents, handling thousands of cases every year.