Few things are more valuable than our health. I've known high net worth individuals who struggled with heart and respiratory complications; some hereditary, some self-inflicted by fatty diets and lack of exercise. Even with all of the possessions and medical expertise money could buy, their quality of life suffered.
I treat my body as a temple, because I understand that I only get one. In business, if you aren't performing at 100%, cracks begin to form in the foundation. For these reasons, I pay close attention to my health, and the health of my team. But, when an entire country is suffering from delays in medical treatment and care, you can bet I sit up straight and pay attention.
We have to take care of ourselves. The points I wish to present in this article aren't meant to embarrass any one person or organization. It is my hope that if we can honestly lay out the problems, we can begin to work together to find solutions; improving the health of our citizens and the strength of our country.
1. Budget Cuts to Council Care Budgets
The purpose of the General Social Care Council (GSCC), as founded in 2001, was to provide oversight for the administration of medical services in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the GSCC was shut down in 2012; some of its assets and areas of responsibility were merged with the Health and Care Professions Council.
Unfortunately, according to some reports, the new arrangements are failing to ensure quality patient care. The goal of treating Accident and Emergency (A&E) patients within four hours of arrival was missed more than 7% of the time in 2014. Twelve hospitals declared major incidents, in order to gain access to additional resources, as they struggled with demands on their A&E.
If we can't find ways to take care of our population during their times of greatest need, how can we expect the population to trust the health service for more routine needs? There needs to be more effective oversight and distribution of resources in order to elevate patient care.
2. Unnecessary Patient Visits to the A&E
A lesser portion of the responsibility lies on the patients themselves. A percentage of A&E visits are for things other than emergencies; this added drain on the system clogs up emergency care. While this isn't the only cause for longer wait times, it is a factor that needs to be mentioned in any honest analysis.
A Mirror article from March 2015 claims that "...19.1% of visits (3.6 million) to A&E are for minor issues that could be dealt with elsewhere." The cost of these visits to the taxpayer was estimated to reach £290m. That's a huge drain on resources for patient care, and it's something that must be fixed with better patient education.
3. Rise in Hospital Negligence Claims in the UK
According to the MNA,
...hospital negligence claims in the UK are higher than 20 years ago (before all the advances in medical training and technology)...[due to] rushed jobs, overcrowding, understaffing, poor communication skills, and a rise in solicitors offering no-win, no-fee claims!
There are as many causes for negligence claims as there are medical conditions, but it's clear that things have gotten worse in recent years.
The Telegraph reports that in 2014, the number of negligence claims rose by more than 80% compared with 2008's numbers. That's a meteoric rise. And, what's worse, the cost of handling these claims was forecasted to eat up nearly 20% of NHS' budget.
The rise in legal costs, just like in any business, shifts the focus of the organization from the consumer to the solicitors and poorly treated patients of the past. Current patients will receive quantifiably lower quality care (as the numbers indicated in my first point), while past patients are remunerated for their pain and suffering.
Getting patient care wrong the first time around is doubly expensive. We need patient care reform that focuses on quality and efficiency. Speedy, high-quality care should be the goal of any efforts to reform the NHS.
The NHS is run like a publicly funded company. Resources are provided and then distributed across a large organization of 69,000 staffers, responsible for providing patient-facing care to all of the UK's citizens and visitors. The amount we spend should result in a high-quality medical service that improves our quality of life.
It is my hope that the NHS will take reform measures seriously and improve patient care. The UK's businesses and communities are directly impacted by the costs associated with a poorly cared for labor force.