In a country where the health service is an intrinsic part of the country’s fabric, it is easy to be complacent about the health services. However a new report, commissioned by Your Legal Friend, shows that the NHS is on the brink of a major patient care crisis, and it is our doctors that are most concerned about it.
I am Dr Chris Steele and I have been a GP for over 40 years, and in recent years I have become very concerned about our health service and the amount of time doctors have to spend away from actively helping patients and the risks this presents to prognosis and treatment. I am not alone. The British Health Report, commissioned by Your Legal Friend, tells us that nearly half of all doctors believe that patient care and the majority of health services in the UK will actually decline over the next 5 years.
Even more astonishingly, over a quarter of doctors can’t see a future for the NHS. But what’s to blame for this decline? One identified factor is that recent NHS reforms mean that GPs are having to spend an increasing amount of time on paperwork and away from patients. Administration takes at least a third of doctors’ time and almost half of them feel that they don’t spend enough time with patients. It means that patients are suffering. The research reveals that three quarters of patients delay going to the doctors and over half do so because it takes too long to get an appointment. Even more worryingly, over 35% of people believe the care they have received has been poor. This could mean appointment delays, misdiagnosis or incorrect treatment, all of which can have a long-term negative impact, which is a major concern.
My story starts when I was a bit younger. I was getting really sick all the time - very generic symptoms like being tired, feeling bloated and generally under the weather. I went to the doctor’s several times only to be told that I had some blanket term, like IBS. It was only after I started to get worse and my symptoms became really bad that I finally got diagnosed with Celica disease which, if left untreated, can potentially be life threatening.
When I went to the doctor’s to get my final diagnosis, I was really unwell and it was really frustrating that it had to take that long to get diagnosed. If I have had been diagnosed earlier, it wouldn’t have taken me nearly as long to recover.
Recently I have had a recurrence with an injury in my neck, a slipped disk that happened 7 years ago. The first appointment I could get with the doctor’s was 3 days away. With things like a slipped disk in the neck, that is worth scanning quickly, so I just paid and went and had it done privately. It was my physiotherapist that referred me to have an MRI scan. Realistically the NHS does do an amazing job. The problem is when they drop the ball, the consequences are very severe, therefore that does end up in national newspapers.
These two aren’t alone. In fact the report found that over a third of people believe they have received poor quality care from medical professionals.
As specialist solicitors, Your Legal Friend commissioned the British Health Report because we work with doctors, nurses and patients every day and we wanted to see what challenges they were facing in the NHS.
People shouldn’t be worried about going and having treatment at the NHS; the NHS is a wonderful institution. Most people’s experience will be a good one, but they should also know that, if they do have a treatment that they are not happy with, there are specialist solicitors and there are various avenues they can go down to rectify this.
Sir Liam Donaldson, the former Chief Medical Officer for England, said that people deserve high quality care in the NHS and if they don’t get that they deserve to be told when something has gone wrong.
Our medical professionals do a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances, but the British Health Report shows their increasing concerns with the current system. The last thing that any doctor wants to see is patients suffer unnecessarily, but increasing pressures can and do lead to mistakes.
We must address these problems so that patient care is the prime consideration at all times. Highlighting a problem helps to provide a solution so that other patients will not have to experience this with their own medical care.