The Guardian reveals the extent of NHS cuts under the ConDem coalition government.
GPs are striking patients off their waiting lists. There will be an incentive for GPs to strike ill and consequently more expensive patients off their lists. While the vast majority of GPs are very good and concerned with the needs and welfare of patients, some are not.
- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat (Conservative) coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
Services slashed affect patients on frontline such as pregnant women and elderly despite assurances they would be protected
Birth centres are closing, patients are being denied pain-relieving drugs and leaflets advising parents how to prevent cot death have been scrapped because of NHS cuts which are increasingly restricting services to patients, evidence gathered by the Guardian reveals.
The NHS’s £20bn savings drive also means new mothers receive fewer visits from health visitors, support for problem drinkers is being reduced and families are no longer being given an NHS advice book on bringing up their baby.
People with diabetes and leg ulcers are seeing less of the district nurses who help them manage their condition; specialists delivering psychological therapies are under threat and a growing number of hospitals are reducing the number of nurses and midwives to balance their books.
The disclosure that the savings drive is affecting so many different areas of NHS care has prompted claims that pledges by the prime minister and the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, that the frontline would be protected despite the NHS’s tightening financial squeeze cannot be trusted. One of David Cameron’s election pledges was: “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS.”
Inquiries by the Guardian into the impact of the quest to deliver £20bn of “efficiency savings” in the NHS in England by 2015 also shows that walk-in centres are closing and anti-obesity programmes are being scaled back and hospitals reducing the number of nurses and midwives they employ, despite rising demand for healthcare and an ongoing baby boom.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Andrew Lansley promised the NHS cuts to save the £20bn would be in bureaucracy and waste and would not come at the expense of the frontline. But the evidence we are getting on a daily basis is that the impact is on the patient and frontline services.”
“Ministerial promises aren’t being kept. We are getting the complete opposite of what we were promised. We were promised no cuts to frontline services and no impact on the patient’s journey. Instead we are getting cuts in many, many services and the impact on the patient is huge.”
Family doctors are adopting a zero-tolerance approach to patients who displease them by striking them off practice lists, in breach of NHS regulations.
The tough “one strike and you’re out” approach led to a 6 per cent rise in complaints to the Health Service Ombudsman about patient removals last year, which accounted for more than one in five of all complaints about GPs.
In one particularly stark case, a terminally ill woman was struck off a GP practice’s list after her daughter changed the battery on a device delivering an anti-sickness drug instead of waiting for the district nurse to change it for her. The revelations come in a highly critical report which lambasts the NHS for its failure to deal adequately with patient complaints.
Overall, the NHS paid out £500,000 in compensation to patients for poor complaint handling by staff, following investigations by the Ombudsman, Ann Abraham. “The NHS is still not dealing adequately with the most straightforward matters. Minor disputes over unanswered telephones or mix-ups over appointments can end up with the Ombudsman because of knee-jerk responses by NHS staff and poor complaint handling,” Ms Abraham said.
GPs have always had the right to strike patients off their lists, which reciprocates the right of patients to switch GPs. But the rules require doctors to issue a warning and discuss matters with the patient before the axe falls, except in cases of aggression or abuse.
The finding that some doctors are acting precipitately highlights the vulnerability of patients at a time when GPs are set to acquire major new powers under the Health and Social Care Bill currently going through the Lords. Ms Abraham warned: “As GPs prepare to take on greater responsibility for commissioning patient services, some are failing to handle even the most basic complaints appropriately.”
In the case of the terminally ill woman, a district nurse reported the incident to the practice who discussed it with her daughter. The practice decided “the doctor-patient relationship with the family had broken down” and removed not only the daughter, but also her sister and their mother from the practice list. The family was given no warning of the practice’s intention, nor an opportunity to respond to it, as required by NHS regulations. The practice removed the women’s terminally ill mother even though she had played no part in the disagreement.
Following the Ombudsman’s inquiries, the practice apologised and drew up plans to avoid a repeat. Ms Abraham said: “In the cases we have seen, GPs have applied zero-tolerance policies without listening to and understanding their patients or considering individual circumstances. Decisions to remove a patient from their GP’s list can be unfair and disproportionate, and can leave entire families without access to primary healthcare.”
27/11/13 Having received a takedown notice from the Independent newspaper for a different posting, I have reviewed this article which links to an article at the Independent’s website in order to attempt to ensure conformance with copyright laws.
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