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The false economics of the health reforms

The false economics of the health reforms

🕔08.Jan 2013

English: Credit: James Firth of Dalton Firth L...

The NHS is a hot topic and always relevant.

There is never enough money, and successive governments guarantee to protect a health service that is free at the time of need.

Sadly, with the ill thought-out reforms from former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and his invisible successor Jeremy Hunt, it is understandable that most people do not believe the Government has its heart in the NHS.

The most damning proposal recently announced is the abolishment of NHS Direct in its current form. Anyone who has used the service will know how comforting it is to speak to a health expert without clogging up A&E or your GP’s surgery. It is never felt more keenly than at holiday time, when GP surgeries are closed.

A case in point is what I went through as a mother during the

Swine Flu outbreak, nursing my son who had a temperature of over 100 but not wanting to drag him to a hospital at 2am. Instead, NHS direct were there to help. A nurse listened to the symptoms and after a brief chat with the sympathetic nurse I was told to continue with paracetamol until it cleared, which meant no need to traipse down to A&E with the risk of further spreading the infection. The advice was clear and professional.


The system coming in now would not have helped me at all. Will the health experts with five weeks training risk telling a mother of a child with swine flu that she doesn’t need to go to hospital? Surely with no experience and little training their only answer can be to go to the GP surgery or the hospital to err on the side of caution and ensure there is no comeback if they give the wrong advice.

The facts are in the advert for these new posts and they say that the applicants will undergo five weeks of “intensive training” to become a “fully qualified health advisor”. It begs the question: What is the definition of a health advisor? The only benefit that can be gained by replacing fully qualified nurses and doctors is via lower salary costs. That does not help the patient on the other end of the phone who needs to be able to trust in what they are being told.

The case for preventative medicine is strong with the added bonus of not taking up the time of hard-working doctors and nurses who are better placed treating those most in need. Early prognosis and therefore treatment needs to be easily accessible, which won’t of course be helped by the planned closure of some NHS walk-in centres. As the centres tend to be in areas with high footfall, they are invaluable to an elderly or vulnerable person taken ill without, again, the need to burden A&E. The campaigns to keep them open have been extremely well received by everyone, but whether this has any bearing on those making the decision only time will tell.

The Government will surely regret underestimating the importance of preventative measures rather than dealing with the consequences.



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