The shifting demands faced by the NHS

Change needs to be locally led with role of NHS England to support those delivering care.

3 mins read
A representational image [(Photo: Layla Bird/Getty Image)]

Nobody talks of the ageing population in UK, they think it is only applicable in Japan. Nobody contemplates of the workforce in UK is reducing while the population is growing, especially after the mass exodus of migrant labour from Europe after Brexit. People are needing more care with GP’s unable to cope at their practice surgeries. People are needing more care this winter, allowing for more strike action disrupting ordinary life.

Prevention of disease, illness, according to the adage, is better than cure. Care, not only of older people, but of society is a necessity. Of course, we have a responsibility to help order people to live healthier lives, but we also have a “duty to protect” the young who are unable to cope with the stresses of life after COVID-19. They are at the forefront of depression, unable to find suitable employment opportunities. To put it simply, they are finding it near difficult, “to secure connected lives”.

The challenges faced by the NHS today are many. The main problem being lack of proper communication, or rather, a breakdown in communication. As the saying goes, “water, water, everywhere, but nothing to drink”. During the last decade the NHS has had workforce cuts, shortage of nurses, doctors, consultants, but at the same time an increase in hospital patrol security officers, to quell any disturbances, with an equally decrease in the hospital beds. No one, neither the Medics; the Hospital Administrators; the NHS; the Government; or even social media, have had the courage of their conviction, to state that better communication is needed, both within the service and external, to explain the “system malaise”.  

Why has there been a lack of communication?

The irony is that with the growth of digital technology, the internet, the apps, and the mobile, people of all ages across society around the world, seem to be more lonelier and isolated in their problems. The NHS is not an exception in this respect.  Have we ripped the heart out of our lives? Has Covid-19 and remote working made us “lose our humanity” or the need for personal interaction, on every level? Have we lost the need to care for others? Have our GP’s lost the human touch in remote consultation?

Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge in communication over the past 18 months has been adjustment in terms of logistics, technology, working practice, making cultural alignment. In many, if not most cases, it ultimately turned out to be feasible, productive, and somewhat popular work pattern, as flexible working, at present, suited both worker and employer. With the growth of new ways of working, as new technologies emerge, the NHS must also adopt and adapt technology that improves service for patients, as well as help their staff, at every level to do their jobs efficiently and efficaciously.

Why is change in the NHS so difficult?

The issue to highlight is that technology must be patient appropriate. New ways of working in patient care must not exclude old people who need the “language of kindness” in health service. Is time or cost of delivery a constraint? As we age, as we get older, we tend to get long term conditions and need more social care. The number people over 60 according to ONS, is expected to increase to 18.5 million in 2025; 75% of 73 year olds need care. There is more than one (1) long term condition, rising to 82% of 85 year olds. Selling a family home to pay for Care Home treatment, should not the sole criteria of Care. The Government must provide some funding for volunteer care services and to Local Bodies.

Change needs to be locally led with role of NHS England to support those delivering care.

NHS Trusts must make this change happen. Of course there may be performance limitations.

Optimising wellbeing of the young is another area of concern. Paul Farmer, CEO MIND, a mental charity, has highlighted challenges including mental health and wellbeing of the young millennials, caused largely by the sudden change in the way we work, after COVID- 19.  A recent study by NHS reported in Glamour magazine stated,  a quarter of 17-19 year olds have a probable mental disorder. Mental health has failed to recover since the pandemic among the young. The new generation Application Tracking System (ATS) and how employers utilise technology, how they advertise jobs, the language they use and process they follow, may cause mental stress to the young and needs scrutiny?

The vision for the future

The vision for the future is greater focus in prevention, patients more in control of Health Care and the spread of compassion and kindness in delivery of care services to both young and old. In this respect NHS Trusts to act firmly and fairly, with the provision of service delivery in Hospitals and GP Surgeries. Para Medics and Pharmacies to help GP’s with Government legislation put in place soon in health assessments and prescription of medication for people.

Victor Cherubim

Victor Cherubim is a London-based writer and a frequent columnist of the Sri Lanka Guardian

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