It isn’t often I get angry watching a programme on TV but last night was one of those occasions.
BBC2’s new documentary series ‘Hospital’ following a week in the life of St Mary’s Hospital in London, was both riveting and deeply distressing. It was even more distressing after hearing prime minister Theresa May’s earlier criticism of the Red Cross for having the audacity to state there is now a humanitarian crisis within our NHS.
Of course, it is of little surprise that May and her ministers have long resented those who dare to criticise their handling of our premier national asset. For the last couple of years we have been overdosing on stories of casualty departments in meltdown with their corridors lined by waiting patients on trolleys, unable to get access to a bed.
Most of us have become immune to the constant doom and gloom stories of casualty and are fortunate to be healthy enough to avoid having to visit. We assume the department is just a small bone on the body of the main NHS and the rest of the framework is functioning normally.
However, last night’s programme proved otherwise.
Yes, it was once again about the lack of beds available, but this time they were in intensive care. In St Mary’s, there are only sixteen ICU spaces for those needing round the clock, one-to-one monitoring.
Why does this matter?
Very simple. If a bed is not available in ICU for post operative care, then life saving operations are put on hold and the operating theatres remain on stand-by until one can be found.
Highly skilled surgeons and their teams are forced to barter for the spare capacity and decisions have to be made about which of them has the sickest patient. Having your life saved, therefore, becomes a lottery.
Meanwhile, the losing patients are either left in limbo, with a greater risk of dying, or if judged to be not so ‘critical’ are sent home and put on standby – often for the second or third time.
The teams due to operate are left playing a waiting game and their sense of frustration and dissatisfaction grows greater. It is a complete waste of valuable resources, talent – and most importantly funding.
Why is the problem not being solved?
Providing more funding for ICU beds and staffing would be expensive but surely not as costly as the wasted time and hours of those who are not being permitted to do what they love and are paid to do.
Could it be our caring government is happy to wait until the dying breath of the NHS before allowing their white knight of privatisation to ride in and save the day?
Judging by their failure to act, it appears more and more likely.
Personally, I would rather our national funding was spent on beds and not bombs. The former is life over death; the latter is death over life!
Which do you prefer?