Home African Caribbean The Future Of The National Health Service In Britain

The Future Of The National Health Service In Britain

by Tony Kelly
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Tony Kelly resident Diabetes expert

Britain often described  by some as one of the most  advanced countries in the world or a world leader/beater has in my view many faults which need to be remedied if it wants to continue claiming such a status.  In this article I will focus on the National  Health Service  (NHS) which was established in 1948,  three years after the Second World War ended in 1945.  Some of us might be familiar with the image  of  Lord Kitchener’s poster with the pointing of his index finger under the  caption ‘Your Country Needs You’  as Britain turned to the Caribbean, Africa and Asia in her efforts as the so-called Mother Country to recruit labour of every kind after London in particular was decimated by the bombing of the Germans.

My aunt Aldyth Richards in 1952, followed by mother Millicent Kelly  in 1953 and another  aunt, Yvonne Kelly in 1956  all heeded the call from Bath, St. Thomas, Jamaica  to train as State Registered Nurses (SRN) in London hospitals.  I refer to these three sisters  as the Three Degrees after the well-known pop group which King Charles publicly claimed was  his favourite singing group. Their contribution and that of the thousands who contributed in making the NHS what it is now should not be forgotten or dismantled.

The health of any nation should be of paramount importance as to use the often-quoted motto in all my diabetes awareness events, Our Health Is Our Wealth and Britain has quite rightly prided itself on the NHS ever since it came in to being over seventy-five years ago.

The  most recent  former President of the United States whilst in office mentioned that he wanted to get his hands or words to that effect on the NHS and quite rightly was rebuked and told in no uncertain terms that it was not for sale or privatisation. The NHS  has always been free  and should remain so, hence asking readers in this fortnightly article to click on the link below and sign the ever-growing petition. https://38d.gs/bu7b

The petition is specifically addressed to Rishi Sunak, Britain’s Prime Minister and Steve Barclay, Health Secretary with the caption  ‘Charging the sick for being sick? Don’t you dare.’ It goes on to say ‘Health care is a right for all of us who need it, not a privilege.  Our NHS has always been free when we need it. Keep it that way.’   At the last count over 105,000 had signed these 38 degrees people.power.change petition and I regard that as a low number considering over 67 million people (2021)  live in the United Kingdom.  If we let apathy/inertia  get the better of us, stealth through the back-door  will take place and the NHS as we know it will be changed forever. In many countries whether developed or developing their citizens pay for their health care and we in Britain should not become complacent and take this national institution for granted.

We need to take a stand and adopt a more proactive approach and be in control of our own destiny. The alarming figure of 14.3 million NHS doctor appointments missed in 12 months to June 2022 in England alone is truly incredible and is estimated to cost the NHS £216 million an average of £30.00 per person. These figures vary depending on the websites but have a knock-on effect as they could have been filled by someone else on the ever-increasing waiting list. A lot has been blamed on the pandemic and rightly so but frankly the NHS  was in dire straits even before the dreaded C virus emerged.

I often hear in my diabetes awareness sessions  anecdotal stories of patients struggling to get GP appointments within a reasonable time frame,  wating in the queue on the telephone line for ages to be connected only to be told none are available or the line being constantly engaged/busy signal. The non-emergency number 111 is also a vexed talking point as wrong or inappropriate diagnosis  has  been  some people’s experiences whilst walk-in clinics remain far from ideal due in part to the long hours one has to wait to be attended to.  Ambulance waiting times when called to emergencies need to be improved and to then leave sick patients lying on stretchers in corridors for hours is not a good image Britain should want to portray.  We need to improve these deficiencies.

Many dentists have chosen to go into private practice which is covered by health insurance and finding an NHS registered one is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Only recently I discovered that the annual digital eye screening for my type 2 diabetes in the West Midlands (which no one with diabetes has to pay for at this juncture) has been contracted to a private company instead of the usual NHS provider, so yet another case it seems of profiteering.

Hospital waiting lists for operations have reached such a backlog which is not expected to clear for the next five years. Where is this all going to end what with many health care professionals choosing to migrate, leave the NHS for other unrelated jobs, retire early or move to the private health sector?

Vacancies in specialist nursing areas and shortage of junior doctors are both growing areas of concern and later this week the latter have voted overwhelmingly to take three days of industrial action as they demand better pay, better working conditions and less hours which inevitably expose patients to serious risks from tired and overworked staff.  The low morale in the NHS remains deeply worrying and needs to be addressed ASAP with short and long-term solutions.  The British Medical Association (BMA) the trade union and professional body for doctors and medical students in the UK is doing its utmost to get the powers that be to pay serious attention to their many grouses. One hopes that they will be taken on board.

More attention to preventative measures to increase the health of the nation need to come on stream and the social prescribing initiatives, healthier dietary advice, breast and colon cancer screening,  are all  steps in the right direction as is the national diabetes prevention programme. At this juncture I urge the health authorities to routinely test all men from the age of 45 for prostate cancer as 2 in every 4 Black men develop this disease as opposed to 1 in every 8 White men and it remains one of the easiest cancers to cure if diagnosed at an early stage.

Of course several people have positive experiences of the NHS and what works or good practice should be the norm across the board and not be based on a post code lottery.

We all should be passionate and fight for the future of our beloved NHS as money should not be the deciding factor in whether it remains in the public domain or is farmed out to private enterprise. Forearmed is forewarned so please play your part in keeping it in save hands. I urge you to  save the NHS by putting your signature to the petition and sharing it with others. Petition image courtesy 38Degrees.

Photo courtesy 38Degrees

Tony Kelly

Tony Kelly

London born Tony Kelly of Jamaican parents grew up in Jamaica and returned to live in Birmingham in 1979.
He is a graduate of Mico Teachers’ College and taught in Kingston high schools prior to working for 30+ years as a middle manager in central and local government with an emphasis on equity, equality, diversity and inclusion. He has a masters’ degree in socio-legal studies from the university of Birmingham.
For over a decade Tony has volunteered as a diabetes ambassador firstly for Diabetes UK and now for the National Health Service – Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group. A multi-award winner doing a yearly average of 150 health and well-being events, locally, nationally and internationally focusing on type 2 diabetes. He was diagnosed with this medical condition 18 years ago. However with a combination of physical activity and diet he has never taken medication thus proving with the right mindset and discipline it can be achieved.
As a diabetes advocate/activist Tony will continue delivering the message of healthy options to readers of CaribDirect.com .


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