Posts Tagged ‘doctor shortage’

European Doctors Are Giving Up on the U.K.

February 15, 2018


Just under 3,500 registered to work in 2017, a 26 percent drop from 2014.

Andrea Pevere had a great job offer: a permanent position as an anesthesiologist in the U.K., where she had previously worked and lived. But she worried about what would happen to her immigration status—she is Italian—once Britain formally leaves the European Union in 2019.

Instead, like an increasing number of European doctors, she decided against the move, accepting a limited-term contract in France.

“If you want to build a future,” said Pevere, 35, “you just think twice about choosing the U.K. for a long-term job.”

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The number of doctors coming to the U.K. from the European Union fell 9 percent in 2017 to an eight-year low, according to new figures from the U.K.’s General Medical Council obtained by Bloomberg through a freedom of information request. There were 3,458 new doctors from EU countries who registered to work in 2017, down 26 percent from a peak of 4,644 in 2014, the council’s data show.

Doctors who have considered working in the U.K. say it will only get worse, thanks to Britain’s 2016 decision to leave the EU. Non-Brits haven’t had a clear answer on whether they’ll be able to live and work in an independent U.K., despite attempts at reassurance from Theresa May’s government.

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NHS patients often fill up the hallways waiting for attention at overcrowded NHS hospitals. This man waited so long in the A&E (emergency room) that he jumped into an empty trolly to get some attention from medial staff….

The figures come at a time of intense soul-searching for the U.K.’s National Health Service, whose mission to provide government-funded health care to all is deeply linked with the British identity. The campaign to leave the EU—prominently supported by British politicians Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage—promised that £350 million ($487 million) per week would be redirected to the NHS by freeing up cash used for EU membership. (The U.K. Statistics Authority called that claim “potentially misleading,” and the re-allocation never had the backing of the government.)

Earlier this month, thousands demonstrated in London to demand more funding for the health service. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted about the apparent state of distress, calling the NHS “broke” and prompting rebuttals from British politicians.

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The NHS needs more doctors and has relied heavily on overseas migrants in recent years to fill gaps in staffing, with almost 10 percent of its doctors in England hailing from Europe alone. A study last year said 190,000 new positions were needed by 2027 to meet demand. Brexit could make those shortages more acute.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health—which oversees health care in England, but not Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland—called the registration data “misleading” and pointed to data showing that 212 more doctors from Europe were working in the NHS in England in September 2017 from a year earlier.

However, a parliamentary report on that data released earlier this month cautioned against making comparisons over time because of gaps. “Some apparent increases in staff numbers for particular nationalities and nationality groups is likely to be due to improved data coverage rather than genuine increases,” the report said. “To present this as the full story would be misleading.”

A Downing Street spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the government had plans to address the decline and directed questions to the Department of Health.

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High-quality scientific research, the ability to work and live without a visa and widespread knowledge of English have made it easy and appealing for European doctors to relocate to the U.K., despite some downsides, said Elias Mossialos, professor of health policy at the London School of Economics.

“Pay is not necessarily the best, and living standards elsewhere are not as expensive,” Mossialos said. European doctors often find Scandinavian countries or Germany more attractive than the U.K., he added.

Competition to attract doctors will only heat up, globally. By 2020, the EU alone will need 230,000 more practitioners than are available, according to estimates by the European Commission. Worldwide, that shortage is about 2.6 million, the World Health Organization says.

The number of doctors coming to the U.K. started falling sharply in 2015, the year then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party laid out plans to hold the Brexit referendum. Doctors often have to make career plans several years in advance.

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It’s not just doctors. A continuing, steep decline in the number of European nurses coming to the U.K. prompted the government to promise to create more spots for trainees. NHS figures released in September showed 10,000 EU employees—including nurses, doctors and other staff—had already quit. This winter, medical students have been drafted to plug staffing gaps at emergency rooms, the Guardian reported.

It will be difficult for the U.K. to find a way to overcome the compounded issue of NHS shortages and Brexit, Mossialos said. Even if British universities took more students, it could take a decade for doctors to be fully trained, he said.

Francesca Mursia, 26, trained in London before the vote but chose to move to Spain to pursue surgery. “Specialisms can take up to nine years in the U.K.,” she said. “Tying myself hand and foot to a country that does not want to stay in the EU seemed unwise.”



Britain’s Health Secretary says NHS winter crisis is ‘worst ever’ but says doctors and nurses ‘knew what they signed up for’ — Doctors say NHS does “not currently have a sustainable model” — No mention of patients, sick and elderly

February 9, 2018

Health Secretary says doctors and nurses knew what to expect

By Alex Matthews-King

Image may contain: 1 person, suit and closeup

Jeremy Hunt admits NHS winter crisis is ‘worst ever’

Jeremy Hunt has acknowledged the NHS winter crisis is the “worst ever” but said staff knew what to expect when they “signed up” to work in the health service.

Official figures released today confirmed that A&E waiting time performance is at its worst level on record, and more than a thousand patients were left waiting for 12 hours or more in trolleys waiting for a bed.

Experts said patients are dying prematurely because corridors have become “the new emergency wards” this winter, despite unprecedented efforts and planning by staff and the cancellation of tens of thousands of operations.

The Health Secretary described this winter as the “worst ever” for the NHS, saying the flu outbreak had been “very, very tough” on frontline services, and adding: “In terms of pressures on the system, I think it probably is the worst ever because we’ve got very high levels of demand.”

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But when asked in an interview with ITV News whether he would apologise to under-pressure NHS staff, he replied: “I completely recognise the pressures they have been going through and when they signed up to go into medicine they knew there were going to be pressurised moments.”

Mr Hunt did go on to say sorry to patients, telling the programme: “I take responsibility for everything that happens in the NHS. I apologise to patients when we haven’t delivered the care that we should.”

Justin Madders, Labour’s shadow health minister, said: “This startling admission shows how entirely out of touch with the reality of the NHS winter crisis Jeremy Hunt is.

“It follows the Prime Minister’s bizarre comment last month that cancelled operations were ‘part of the plan’ for the NHS and that ‘nothing is perfect’.

“The truth is that our hardworking NHS staff provide the best possible care in the face of unprecedented pressures and are all that stand between the current crisis and total collapse.”

He was speaking as figures released by NHS England showed just 85.3 per cent of patients were seen at A&E departments within the waiting time target of four hours in January.

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NHS England said the “worst flu season in years” had put a strain on services, but the result was an improvement on December and January last year – the joint worst months since records began.

More than 1,000 patients had to wait more than 12 hours to be seen – more than double the previous month, described as “shocking” by Royal College of Nursing chief executive Janet Davies.

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“There’s no more graphic illustration of how tough this winter has been for NHS patients and staff than the fact that last month, over 81,000 people going to A&E had to wait more than four hours for a bed in the hospital – the worst figure on record,” she added.

“Over a thousand of those had to wait a shocking 12 hours or more.”

She said “distressing scenes of frail elderly people in corridors on trolleys have become an all too familiar sight this winter”, which is pushing people to quit the NHS.

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the figures demonstrate how the NHS does “not currently have a sustainable model” to cope during the busy winter months when illnesses such as flu and norovirus are more prevalent.

Figures also released by Public Health England (PHE) on Thursday showed there were 22 confirmed flu-deaths last week, taking the total deaths so far this winter to 215.

“The last six weeks has seen the acute services of the NHS under a sustained period of stress due to ‘normal’ winter pressures along with a surge in influenza,” Dr Scriven added.

“Last year we coined the phrase ‘eternal winter’, but the last month and a half has shown an even steeper decline in performance as demonstrated by all the data available – particularly around ambulance delays, the four-hour emergency target and bed occupancy both in acute beds and critical care.”

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NHS England said more than 1.7 million patients were seen within four hours last month, an increase of 5.72 per cent on the daily average for the same month last year.


Jeremy Hunt has a very uncomfortable reaction to NHS doctor’s honest admission about health service
Hunt looked visibly awkward as he heard that one doctor ‘would not have trained’ if he knew what the state of the NHS was really like on ITV news

Britain: NHS A&E waiting times hit worst levels on record, show latest figures

February 8, 2018

The Independent

A record number of patients were kept waiting on trolleys in A&E departments as four-hour target performance hits new lows

By Alex Matthews-King Health Correspondent


‘Extensive winter planning’ has not averted most severe A&E pressures on record as experts warn funding and capacity ‘inadequate’ Getty

Record pressures in NHS A&E departments last month were confirmed by official statistics today that show waiting times in emergency departments have hit their worst ever levels.

Just 77.1 per cent of patients were seen by “Type 1” A&E departments within the four-hour target in January 2018.

This is a fall from the previous record waits set just a month earlier, when 77.3 per cent of patients were seen within four hours.

Type 1 departments are “traditional” A&Es, for patients in cardiac arrest or after major trauma, and have a 24-hour service led by a consultant with full resuscitation facilities for acutely ill patients.

Figures also show 1,043 patients had to wait more than 12 hours on trolleys before being found a bed, double the previous month and exceeding the old record of 989 patients in January last year.

NHS England pointed to a slight improvement in overall A&E performance figures, which include waiting times at minor injuries units and walk-in centres.

It shows that 85.3 per cent of patients waited more than four hours, its second worst on record, compared to 85.1 per cent the previous month and in January 2017.

However, this still remains well below the target of 95 per cent of patients at all A&E sites being seen inside four hours – a target which has not been hit since 2015.

The figures confirm that A&E departments have been facing record-breaking pressures this Christmas.

It also shows that Theresa May’s claims of the NHS being better prepared than ever, and its “plan” to cancel non-urgent operations for tens of thousands of patients at the last minute, were not enough to counteract years of underfunding and a record flu outbreak.

NHS chiefs warned the health service is falling even further behind on waiting times, despite additional funding in the budget to put it back on track.

The Royal College of Surgeons highlighted that more non-emergency patients are waiting longer for treatment, just 88.2 per cent starting treatment 18 months from referral, below the target of 92 per cent.

“These performance figures show just how tough it was for hospitals this winter, with further lengthening of waiting times in A&E despite cancellation of planned surgery to free up capacity,” a RCS spokesperson said.

“Surgeons and other frontline NHS staff are working tirelessly to provide the best care possible to patients.

“But today’s figures show that these short-term measures to create extra capacity in the NHS are insufficient to meet NHS performance targets. We currently do not have adequate funding or capacity in our health or social care services and we need to urgently find a long-term solution.”

The work of front line NHS staff and managers to mitigate these pressures is evident.

Just 4,668 patients were delayed in hospital because of a lack of home support or capacity in community centres, according to figures on delayed transfers of care (Dtocs) for December.

This compares to 6,305 patients in December 2016, and is the lowest number since August 2015 – around the time the NHS was last able to hit A&E waiting times targets.

Delayed transfers, caused largely by a collapse in funding for social care and local authorities, impact all aspects of hospital performance as it means there is no space to move patients out of intensive care or admit them from A&E.

“A year ago we warned that corridors had become the new emergency wards,” said chief economist at the Nuffield Trust, John Appleby.

“It is deeply concerning that 12 months on the position has worsened, with many harrowing reports of patients being treated in busy corridors by stressed and overworked staff.”

Theresa May says 55,000 missed operations are part of the NHS plan

In December, A&E doctors running major emergency rooms across England and Wales signed a letter to Theresa May warning that patients were “dying prematurely in corridors” because of these pressures.

“Today’s figures provide hard evidence on just how bad a winter the NHS is having: over 80,000 patients waited on trolleys for more than four hours at A&E in January, of whom over 1,000 were waiting for over 12 hours. These are the highest numbers since records began.”

In papers ahead of its board meeting today, NHS England revealed it had again been allowed to drop the official four-hour A&E target for 2018-19, with ministers recognising that funding pressures are too far gone to restore performance in the next year.

Commenting on today’s figures, an NHS England spokesperson said: “Despite the worst flu season in seven years, A&E performance improved this month.

“It was better than both the month before, and was better too than the same time last winter. This was partly helped by the fact that NHS-related Delayed Transfers of Care fell to their lowest in four years, freeing up beds for patients needing emergency hospitalisation.”

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) ‘should be funded by new tax’

February 5, 2018

BBC News

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A rally was held in London at the weekend calling for more funding for the NHS

A new ring-fenced tax to fund the NHS and social care has been proposed by a panel of health experts.

The panel, set up by the Liberal Democrats, says the NHS in England should be given an extra £4bn on top of inflation in the next financial year.

It has suggested replacing National Insurance with the new tax to close the funding gap.

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A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said NHS funding “is at a record high”.

“[It] was prioritised in the Budget with an extra £2.8bn, on top of the additional £2bn already provided for social care over the next three years, and an additional £437m of funding for winter,” the spokesperson said.

The future of NHS money has been hotly debated as hospitals struggle to cope with the pressure on resources.

Last month, tens of thousands of non-urgent operations were delayed.

The 10-member panel included former NHS England chief executive Sir David Nicholson, Peter Carter, former chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing and Clare Gerada, former chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs.

It said on top of the £4bn extra needed for next year, an additional £2.5bn would be required for both 2019 and 2020.

Prof Gerada said that one of the issues is that working people over the age of 60 benefit from a significantly reduced National Insurance contribution, and people over 65 do not pay it at all.

She said National Insurance, which currently funds the NHS and social care, is inadequate as older people are living longer, and not contributing to the ring-fenced tax.

She said: “Old age is now between 85 and 95, so old age has significantly moved.

“Why shouldn’t I pay for my fair share of contributions if I’m working?”

As part of the recommendations, the panel also suggested reinstating a cap on the costs paid by individuals on social care.

In December, the government scrapped proposals to cap fees at £72,500.

It supported creating an office for budget responsibility for health and called for a series of incentives to get people to save more towards their adult social care.

The idea of a levy dedicated to funding the NHS was also suggested by former minister Nick Boles.


Young Chinese emergency doctor dies after treating 40 patients on long night shift

January 26, 2018

Guo Qingyuan, 43, collapsed after a busy evening at the Qinghai hospital

By Laura Zhou
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 January, 2018, 1:55pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 2018, 2:12pm

An emergency doctor in northwest China has collapsed and died after a long night shift during which he had treated 40 patients, a local newspaper reports.

Guo Qingyuan, 43, was coming to the end of a busy shift at the Qinghai University Affiliated Hospital on Wednesday morning when he started experiencing chest pain, palpitations and breathing difficulties, Xining Evening News reported on Friday.

As he was going through the procedures to be admitted as a patient himself, Guo had a seizure and collapsed. He underwent four hours of emergency treatment before he died.

Guo was the father of a two-month-old son and a daughter, 10, and his wife is also a doctor at the same hospital, according to Southern Metropolis News.

The night before he died, Guo had treated 40 patients then stayed on for an extra three hours so that he could ensure his work was properly handed over to colleagues, according to the newspaper.

The case has triggered an outpouring of grief and sympathy online, with many people expressing their condolences to his family, and their support for other doctors who work long hours.

“This is an unbearable loss for his family … his wife and two children,” one person wrote on news portal “Emergency doctors have a tough job and they have to work around the clock.”

Another wrote: “Many people don’t understand the work of doctors. But I know, after giving birth, that they don’t even get a set time to eat or rest because they don’t know when the next patients will arrive. I salute all medical workers.”

It is not the first case of a doctor collapsing while at work in recent years in China. The most recent case was on December 29, when a 43-year-old respiratory specialist in Shanxi province died after she reportedly worked an 18-hour shift without a break.

Boris Johnson warns Theresa May she must commit to giving NHS extra £100m a week to defeat Jeremy Corbyn

January 17, 2018

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Boris Johnson has warned Theresa May that the Government must make a public commitment to giving the NHS an extra £100million a week after Brexit if the Tories are to beat Jeremy Corbyn at the next election.

The Foreign Secretary believes that the Government must adopt the flagship Vote Leave pledge and spend £5.2billion a year that would have been paid into Brussels on the health service instead.

His intervention comes as hospitals struggle to cope with the winter flu crisis amid an ongoing row between the Government and NHS England over funding.

Mr Corbyn, the Labour leader, has put the issue at the forefront of his campaigning. Mr Johnson is likely to have the support of Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary and leading Leave campaigner, alongside senior Eurosceptic Tory MPs as he makes his case for the commitment.

Read more (Paywall):


Boris Johnson suggests Brexit could fund NHS

Boris Johnson said Vote Leave had underestimated the amount that Britain gives to Brussels each week
Boris Johnson said Vote Leave had underestimated the amount that Britain gives to Brussels each weekMATT CARDY/GETTY IMAGES

Boris Johnson has suggested that additional NHS funding should come from the Brexit dividend rather than a new tax.

The foreign secretary joined the heated debate among senior Conservatives about how much to put into the NHS after the funding settlement runs out in 2020 and how to pay for it.

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is prepared to look at a new tax among other options, The Times revealed yesterday. Nick Boles, the Tory MP for Grantham & Stamford, has backed an additional levy, as has Nick Macpherson, former permanent secretary to the Treasury.

However, Mr Johnson told The Guardian that the cash should come from funds now paid to Brussels that may be available after Brexit, depending on how much the UK continues…


Britain’s National Health Service Crisis: NHS crisis fuelled by closure of 1,000 care homes housing more than 30,000 pensioners

January 13, 2018

NHS figures show the worst Accident & Emergency crisis on record CREDIT: CHRIS J. RATCLIFF


The growing NHS crisis has been fuelled by the closure of almost 1,000 care homes housing more than 30,000 pensioners, research suggests.

It comes as NHS figures show the worst Accident & Emergency crisis on record, amid a 37 per cent rise in the numbers stuck in hospital for want of social care, since 2010.

Experts said hospitals were being overwhelmed by the spread of flubecause they had almost no spare capacity to cope with surges in demand.

The report by industry analysts shows that in the last decade, 929 care homes housing 31,201 pensioners have closed, at a time when the population is ageing rapidly.

The research from LaingBuisson show care homes going out of business at an ever increasing rate, with 224 care homes closed between March 2016 and March 2017, amounting to more than 2,000 beds.

The research from LaingBuisson show care homes going out of business at an ever increasing rate
The research from LaingBuisson show care homes going out of business at an ever increasing rateCREDIT: JEFF J MITCHELL

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS): ‘No longer able to meet standards in its constitution’

January 13, 2018

‘Rising numbers of flu cases and more respiratory illness have placed intolerable pressures on staff’

By Samuel OsborneAlex Matthews-King

The Independent Online

The National Health Service is at a “watershed moment” and cannot deliver care to the standards required by its constitution with the funding it receives, Jeremy Hunt has been told.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which acts as as bridge between trusts and the Department of Health, has written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to call for extra investment on a long-term basis to address the “fragility of the wider NHS”.

The three-page letter calls for the Government to commit to increasing the NHS budget to £153bn by 2022/23 – a sum the Office for Budget Responsibility said was needed, given projected increased demand for services.

But Mr Hopson has warned that, due to the current state of NHS finances, “substantial progress” must be made before the Autumn Budget this year.

Mr Hopson said: “Despite planning for winter more thoroughly and extensively than before, it hasn’t been sufficient. Rising numbers of flu cases and more respiratory illness have placed intolerable pressures on staff.

“The NHS is no longer able to deliver the constitutional standards to which it is committed. We need to be realistic about what we can provide on the funding available.

“If we continue to run the NHS at close to 100 per cent capacity day in, day out, permanently in the red zone, it’s not surprising that the service can’t cope when we get a high, but entirely predictable, spike in demand.”

Warning that failure to act would lead to targets moving further out of reach, he said: “There is so much at stake. We can fix this, but there must be no more delay. The ball is now firmly in the Government’s court.”

The letter follows the Health Secretary’s admission on Wednesday that the NHS will need substantially increased funding in future, which should be delivered across a 10-year spending period.

The letter adds: “The Government now needs to set out how it will create the sustainable, long-term health and care funding settlement you have rightly called for.”

NHS Providers has said the Government must commit to review this year’s winter preparations, which Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly said are “the best ever”, despite hospitals relying on a last-minute allocation of £335m in the Budget.

The Government has also guaranteed hospitals will be protected against further funding squeezes if they fail to hit increasingly remote financial targets.

The cancellation of non-urgent care, as advised by the NHS last week, will mean trusts, which are paid on a fee-for-service basis, miss out on income from these operations.

Jeremy Hunt apologises to patients as thousands of operations delayed

This will also make it harder to hit strict savings and performance targets and unlock the associated funding for delivering them.

NHS Providers’s intervention comes on the day after a leaked memo revealed Oxford’s Churchill Hospital was having to consider cutting back chemotherapy services for cancer patients because of staff shortages.

A letter from the hospital’s head of chemotherapy, Dr Andrew Weaver, said nurse numbers were down 40 per cent, and chemotherapy start dates may have to be pushed back or the number of cycles reduced.

Norman Lamb, a former Liberal Democrat minister, said the country had been “honest” about how to give the NHS more funding.

His party has called for adding a penny in the pound on income tax.

“The clear message from NHS leaders is that the Government must drop its sticking-plaster approach to the health service,” he said.

“The gap between demand and resources in the NHS is growing each year, with tragic human consequences across the country.

“The stark reality is that the current winter crisis is just a taster of what is to come unless ministers get to grips with the long-term funding shortfall facing the health service.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The NHS was given top priority in the recent Budget with an extra £2.8bn allocated over the next two years, and was recently ranked as the best and safest healthcare system in the world.

“We know there is a great deal of pressure in A&E departments and that flu rates are going up, and we are grateful to all NHS staff for their incredible work in challenging circumstances.

“That’s why we recently announced the largest single increase in doctor training places in the history of the NHS – a 25 per cent expansion.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

Britain’s Unavoidable Health-Care Choice

January 9, 2018

Bloomberg Editorial

Low taxes or free, high-quality medical services: Pick one.
The NHS needs more than emergency treatment. Photographer: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Can a relatively low-tax country run a high-quality, taxpayer-funded health service that’s free to all? Britain’s National Health Service suggests the answer is no.

The NHS is good at some things but bad, bordering on disastrous, at others. Its great virtue is truly universal coverage, no questions asked — and by international standards, the system is also cheap to run. As a result, though, it’s perpetually short of money, and the service is erratic. Today the NHS is yet again dealing with a financial crisis and a surge of complaints about standards.

Prime Minister Theresa May has had to apologize to patients for a winter breakdown that has seen operations postponed and emergency-room waiting times rise well over the promised four-hour maximum. That comes a year after the British Red Cross declared the service was on the verge of a “humanitarian crisis.”

The NHS’s problems — too many patients and not enough staff — aren’t seasonal. Britain’s population is growing and getting older, and as medicine advances, treatments become more sophisticated and expensive.

Many years of meager funding are taking their toll. In relation to population, the U.K. has fewer doctors, CT scanners and MRI units per capita than most other EU countries, and ranks toward to the bottom of the league on infant mortality. Other universal-coverage systems score better on avoidable deaths, cancer survival, innovation, consistency of service, and other measures. Long waiting times for some non-urgent treatments are leading more patients, many suffering chronic pain, to tap savings or borrow for private treatment.

Granted, more money by itself won’t cure the system. One former head of the Treasury called the NHS a “bottomless pit.” Even so, bearing in mind how little the NHS costs, more money is surely part of the answer, as long as it’s combined with further efforts to run the system more efficiently. For instance, social care for the elderly and other groups hasn’t kept pace with what’s required, placing an added burden on more costly medical professionals. Fixing that kind of misallocation would improve the system’s value for money.

The public’s devotion to the principle underlying the NHS is undiminished: The British see health care as a right. Increasingly, though, they are also demanding higher standards of care, and those come at a price. Taxpayers must either dig deeper to maintain the current service — deeper still to improve it — or else accept that the NHS will continue to disappoint.

To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at .

British PM May apologizes as overwhelmed British hospitals cancel non-emergency operations

January 4, 2018


LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May apologized on Thursday to tens of thousands of patients whose operations were canceled to free up staff and beds to deal with emergency patients.

Earlier this week, officials at the National Health Service (NHS) in England recommended that hospitals cancel all non-urgent appointments and operations until next month.

Officials say this means about 50,000 operations may be postponed.

Hospitals are so full that they are reaching “dangerous levels” and staff are struggling to maintain the safety and quality of patients' care, claims a new report.

Emergency care in hospitals is still open

“I know it is difficult, I know it is frustrating, I know it is disappointing for people and I apologize,” May told Sky News after visiting a hospital outside London.

A flu outbreak, colder weather and high levels of respiratory illnesses have put hospitals in England under strain with many operating at or near full capacity, with long waits for treatment in emergency rooms.

The issue is potentially damaging for May, already weakened after losing a parliamentary majority in last year’s election and struggling to pacify her deeply divided party as she navigates the final year of Brexit negotiations.

The NHS, which delivers free care for all and accounts for a third of government spending on public services, is typically one of the most important issues for voters during elections and one which is often regarded as a weakness for May’s Conservative party.