Print Friendly and PDF
only search openDemocracy.net

This is what a dying NHS looks like

The end of the NHS isn't in 5 years or 10. Whether deliberate or not (and it probably is), the threat is here, staring us in the face, today.

In the grand scheme of things I haven’t been a doctor long. There are consultants who qualified as doctors before my parents even met. I have however seen my fair share of patients, and working with some of the sickest groups in the hospital, I’ve seen plenty of deaths as well.

Most very unwell and terminal patients will die in similar ways. As with any large and very complex machine, there are usually predictable stages. The first signs are the subtlest and most varied-the kidneys might slow down, the peripheral vessels might close down, the brain might become forgetful or sleepy. Then slowly more parts of the whole stop working- each has a knock on effect to the next, with predictable decline. It’s possible to intervene of course- modern medicine can breathe for you, be your kidneys, even pump your heart if needs be. But sometimes we cannot fix what is wrong, and it’s not always right to do so.

Once one major organ fails, another shortly will, and then the next. Beyond this point the damage is usually irreparable. Things deteriorate slowly, until suddenly, whatever spark of life that keeps you laughing, crying, loving and moving, the spark that makes you YOU, is gone.

Why all the morbid tales you may ask?

Because for months and years the NHS has been in slow decline.

Because the end of the NHS isn’t in five or ten years time, it’s staring you in the face, right now. Today.

To the experienced eye, the signs have always been there.

First- the disease. Diagnosis is always difficult. The same pressures of increasing complexity, increasing possibility and increasing age of the population haven’t really changed. Healthcare inflation is well recognised. But the increased work load has been met by starvation, and waste. Austerity, massive reorganisation and criminally expensive private finance deals have smothered the system. Deprived of funds, the NHS began to wobble.

Subtly at first, waiting times crept up and A&E and maternities began to close. NHS finances dipped, a pay freeze hit staff, a mild winter spared us, and the NHS limped on.

But now the organs are failing. Waiting times in A&E have reached a record high, and today this happened. Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust A&E, due to being unable to recruit sufficient staff in a combination of lack of retention and capped locum rates, is left with either closing their A&E or calling in the army.

Let me just reiterate that- an NHS A&E is considering calling in the army to prop up services. Calling in the army. This is what a state of emergency looks like.

This is what a dying NHS looks like.

The other organs are rapidly declining as well. Due to threatened nursing bursary cutsand immigration law, the life blood of the NHS, our nurses, are failing. We are bleeding out losing experienced staff and failing to recruit sufficient numbers to replace them.

The ‘backbone’ of the NHS, the junior doctors, is being crushed – by rota gaps, by overwhelming pressures and by rock bottom morale. Is this the time to introduce a toxic, unmodelled and unsafe contract? We are trying to hold up the service like everyone else, but we can’t do it anymore.

The NHS needs urgent intervention, we need funding and we need politicians who value the service, not butchers to carve up the carcass to private companies. 

If you don’t believe the Tories would destroy the NHS it’s time to face reality. It’s happening right now. The NHS is critically unwell, and whether it’s deliberate or not, death’s door is open. 

Don’t stand by and watch it die.

OurNHS has exposed sneaky moves towards charging for vital health services, withdrawing services, hospital sell-offs and the shocking failures of privatisation. We need your help. Our start-up funders can no longer support us - so we’re asking readers to step in and save OurNHS.

About the author

Dr Dominic Pimenta is a London-based junior doctor and active NHS campaigner. He blogs at juniordoctorblog.com.


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the
oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.