‘It is time for conversation on NHS’

LAST week, I spent a night in Salisbury District Hospital with my baby, who was struggling to breathe due to a chest infection.

On the previous Tuesday I had spoken to the pharmacist and the GP about him. Then, on Thursday I spoke to the health visitor and the GP in person. By Monday his condition had not improved, and the GP advised taking him straight to A&E, where we were seen by a succession of brilliant, empathetic nurses, doctors and consultants.
I will be forever grateful for their care of my baby.
All week long I was worrying about my son, who seemed to be getting worse, while simultaneously worrying about burdening our NHS. Our NHS which, according to the chief executive of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard, is under the greatest strain ever.
One thing I did not worry about, however, was the cost of getting the necessary care and treatment to get my baby well.

Former Health Minister Sajid Javid has said it seems reasonable to charge the European standard of £20 for a GP appointment and the Irish model of a ‘nominal’ £66 charge for a visit to A&E.
According to The Guardian, Javid said, ‘“extending the contributory principle” should be part of radical reforms to tackle growing waiting times.’
Under this scheme, getting my baby the care he needed could have cost at least £126 this week. An amount of money many would find difficult to find a week before pay day, driving further inequality in health outcomes, as those with the least would find it harder to justify seeking medical attention. And once we extend the contributory principle to GP visits and A&E, how long before I am paying for the overnight stay, the oxygen mask, the neonatal monitor (of which we had to use three)?
If we want to start a grown up conversation, let’s examine how much of the NHS is currently propped up by the private sector. Taxpayer money used to outsource beds and procedures the NHS just can’t cope with. Let’s discuss the sharp decline in the number of hospital beds, at the same time as we’re dealing with an aging population. According to the Kings Fund, the number of hospital beds has more than halved in the last 30 years.
Or let’s discuss social care. 38% of Wiltshire Council’s budget will be spent on social care next year and yet the system is on its knees.

We do need a grown up conversation about the NHS, but it should not start with the introduction of a two-tier health system: those who can afford and those who cannot.

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