NHS Waiting Lists:
Why Do We Have Them?
The NHS is a wonderful thing, offering healthcare that is free at the point of use to everyone, no matter what their condition, injury, or employment status. But whilst we are lucky to have it, there is no doubt that the NHS is currently overburdened with patients.
At the same time, its funding has either been cut or remains unchanged, which, with more and more people availing themselves of the NHS’s services, is simply unsustainable. The very reason that we love it so much is the very reason that it is failing.
There are just under 3.5 million people on the extraordinary NHS waiting lists, making this the longest list in a decade. 6,000 people are having to wait over a year for an operation, leaving them in pain and discomfort in the meantime – their lives will be put on hold until they can have the procedure they clearly need but aren’t able to be given.
So just why are the HNS waiting lists so out of control? Why are people having to wait such unacceptable amounts of time just to be seen, and then having to wait again once they have been diagnosed and a treatment or procedure plan have been put in place?
One reason is an ageing population. Thanks to better medicines and cleaner sanitation, as well as a falling birth rate, the population of the UK is progressively getting older. Old age comes with its own set of problems when it comes to health, such as heart issues, mobility problems and arthritis to name just a few. More and more people are therefore requiring help from the NHS.
Ironically, whilst our population is ageing, it is also unhealthy. Longer working hours, cheap processed foods and the ability to do almost everything from in front of a computer screen has meant that as a nation we are growing more and more unhealthy every year. This also puts a strain on the NHS as diseases and complications stemming from being overweight, as well as from drinking and smoking too much mean that more people than ever need to see a doctor.
As well as this, it is estimated that around one in every seven operations aren’t necessary. Therefore, there are a large number of people waiting for operations that don’t need to be performed, presuming alternative care can be found. Removing just these people from the lengthy NHS waiting lists would reduce them by a good percentage.
And of course, the problems of not enough staff and not enough money are always prevalent. It’s the perfect chicken and egg situation (although ‘perfect’ it most certainly is not); more staff members are needed in all departments of the NHS including doctors, nurses, surgeons and physiotherapists. In order to obtain and retain those medical personnel they will need to be paid, and paid fairly. But funding cuts and spending reviews mean that no extra money is being given to the NHS in order to hire more people. This means that not enough personnel are being hired. Which in turn means that hospitals aren’t hitting their targets and are therefore not being given any extra money… and so on.
All in all, the NHS either needs a massive overhaul or a huge injection of cash (and preferably both), or it is doomed to implode leaving those who need it most without its comforting presence.