NHS In Crisis?

The vast majority of people treated in the NHS receive care from dedicated staff struggling against poor working conditions, understaffing, difficulties in recruitment and increasing fragmentation in the service.

There are reports on an almost daily basis of the very serious shortages of doctors, nurses and midwives. It was reported recently that in Doncaster, there is effectively one GP for every 1250 people whereas the average for the UK as a whole is 2.7 GPs to every 1000 people. This situation, wherever it occurs, is plainly unacceptable. Unfortunately, when medical negligence occurs, it is very often not the fault of any individual, but rather as a result of the failings in the system which come about precisely because of problems such as understaffing and general lack of resources.

Most commentators agree that the increase in the NHS budget of 0.1% in 2014/15 is simply not enough to meet rising costs and increasing demands on the service.

NHS England itself predicts a £30bn funding gap by 2021. Official figures show that more than 1 in 3 acute NHS Trusts were in deficit in 2013 / 2014, compared with 1 in 10 in 2010. Therefore a substantial increase in government spending in the NHS is essential if we are to avoid the prospect of more and more Trusts going into deficit or more and more Trusts making huge cuts in services. Either course is likely to be catastrophic.

The recent independent report of the Barker Commission on the Future of Health and Social Care in England highlighted the very serious problems which we face. The report considered the problems created by a system where health spending is ring-fenced but spending on social care is rationed and is dependent on how much Local Authorities can afford. The report recommended that there was an urgent need for both health and social care to come out of a single ring-fenced budget. It also pointed to the need for a substantial increase in spending on both health and social care and estimated that public spending would need to be increased to between 11% and 12% of GDP by 2025.

As lawyers specialising in clinical negligence claims, we see every day the devastating effects on victims and their families. If we are truly serious about trying to reduce the incidence of such claims, a good place to start would be to accept the recommendations for substantial increases in the resourcing of the NHS.

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