It is January and almost like clockwork, there are signs of another predictable and much expected NHS crisis which seems to be appearing before our very eyes. It is happening both in primary and secondary care and I am sure it is happening in large areas up and down the country. This was clearly highlighted by an excellent article in the BBC news website, Senior GP Helen Stokes-Lampard voices fears for services and it states “Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs Council, said general practice was "skating on thin ice", warning: "Something has to give". The article goes on to say “Dr Stokes-Lampard recognised that NHS England had promised to invest more money into GP services - but it had yet to reach the front line.”
This is worrying stuff for the public at large but it comes as no great surprise to us in the front line and in fact, this story also reached a number of popular media outlets including Why you could face a four-week wait to see your GP this winter: Warning surgeries are 'skating on thin ice' as more patients fall ill with flu and chest. This pressure is not just happening in primary care, according to a Univadis news article, NHS set for ‘toughest winter yet’ the NHS is potentially facing a very tough winter. Without doubt the pressure on the NHS is intense.
The worrying aspect is that this is simply just a seasonal variation and already the NHS is bursting at the seams. What would be the impact of say (and let’s hope it never happens) a major and serious flu epidemic or an outbreak of a serious infectious disease, or a major disaster resulting in huge numbers of casualties? If this happened, the NHS could simply fall off its perch. Of course, this could be catastrophic in terms of human suffering but the political fallout could also be enormous. Can you imagine the response in traditional print and broadcast media as well as in social media in today’s 24/7 news cycle? Intense coverage and scrutiny could even threaten the stability of a government, unlucky enough to be caught in such a firestorm.
The NHS has often staggered from crisis to crisis, often relying on the goodwill of both the staff and the public at large. However, this cannot always be taken for granted and one day the bubble could burst and it will be a catastrophe for all concerned. I hope this day will never happen but you just never know.
Dr Harry Brown, editor-in-chief Univadis