The EDP says it’s time for a radical rethink on our NHS

The health system is facing increasing challenges. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The health system is facing increasing challenges. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Today the Eastern Daily Press calls for a radical rethink about how we run and use our National Health Service.

As one of our most beloved institutions, the NHS boasts a brilliant frontline of caring staff who work incredibly hard to give the best treatment to their patients.

But their jobs are getting tougher every year and their frustrations are growing at the way in which patients are being let down as resources become ever more stretched.

Health professionals want to help people but get bogged down with bureaucracy, administration and clipboards.

Our NHS is creaking through increasing demand, an ageing population, and ever more costly treatments and drugs.

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These challenges are made all the harder because of the stringent targets that have to be met within tight budgets.

If a radical rethink does not happen, our NHS will sleepwalk into a crisis.

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Ambulances queuing outside hospitals, patients being sent to the other side of the country for mental health care, hospitals on black alert and being forced to cancel planned operations are all scenarios being experienced with increasing regularity.

Our week-long look at the state of our health service starts today and shows that our hospitals have seen a huge rise in patient demand, leading to fears we are at a tipping point. The number of accident and emergency patients has risen by 9pc in four years, and bed-blockers have nearly doubled.

This week we will also be looking at how GPs are retiring in droves and practices across the country are struggling to recruit replacements, making it harder for patients to see their over-stretched family doctors.

The latest figures also raise fears the ambulance service is back to square one, with response times falling to new lows.

And an exclusive new report will reveal that mental health staff concerns are still high and fewer than one in four would recommend their own service to family or friends for treatment or as a place to work.

We can also reveal Norfolk's hospital trusts are set to rack up a combined deficit of nearly £30m this financial year.

Questions have been raised about whether the current way health is managed, through clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), is fit for purpose.

Following the most recent reorganisation, which replaced primary care trusts with CCGs, staff would certainly not want to see another costly restructuring.

But some fundamental changes need to be made, as the current model of financing and care is not sustainable, unless we continue to plough vast sums of money into the NHS at a time when we are still trying to balance this country's books. When the National Health Service was first established in 1948, it was a shining beacon of hope for large swathes of the British population who could scarcely afford to look after their own health.

It is still respected and envied around the world, but it has become a very different NHS to the one that Aneurin Bevan envisaged.

Even those who set up the NHS were forced to concede after just a few years that spending on the health service was exceeding expectations.

This led, in 1952, to the introduction of a charge for prescriptions and for dental treatment – the only exceptions to the NHS being free at the point of use.

If the NHS' founding fathers were able to have a fundamental rethink after just a few years, then it is surely about time we had another rethink more than 60 years later.

The creation of the NHS had cross-party support; what is needed now is for our parties to come together once again to decide on a long-term future for our health service.

It remains to be seen if party politics can be put aside and if this can be achieved, particularly when the NHS has become a key election campaign issue.

But we owe it to both staff and patients to sit down and come up with a long-term plan to ensure that the NHS is still here to care for our children's children.

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