The NHS – Not Healthily Solvent

Reports of  NHS funding shortages are now so commonplace that we barely take note.

Although the Government has made assurances that the NHS budget will rise in real terms across the lifetime of this parliament, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing begs to differ, citing cuts already planned in staff numbers and services across NHS organisations.

I’m wondering when someone is going to address the sheer amount of waste that is allowing money to be lost, flowing out like an ebb tide?

This has been illustrated recently when my 79 year old mother in law fractured her ankle in three places, necessitating 10 days in hospital, an operation and several follow up appointments.

Her care was, for the most part, good.  The hospital was scrupulously clean, the food  – as always – pretty unpalatable but the nursing staff were clearly doing their best in difficult circumstances of cutbacks and staff shortages.

The first illustration of wasteful practices came  when she was given painkillers that she neither wanted nor needed. As people of her generation are wont to do in these circumstances, she thought that the nursing staff knew best and dutifully took them all. 

The side effects both during and after this needless medication would make for unpleasant reading.

The next shock came when she was discharged from hospital, still in need of a zimmer frame.  She asked how to go about returning the equipment when she was mobile again.  ‘It’s yours to keep’ she was told.   

Eventually her recovery required that she be fitted with an air cast boot, (similar to, but doubtless less expensive than that worn by Wayne Rooney).  This sturdy piece of kit allowed her to inflate it and support her leg and ankle and which quite obviously was not a cheap item.

Once again, she was told she could keep it when no longer needed. 

I admit that there may be factors here of which I’m unaware, perhaps some piece of Health and Safety regulation that makes the return of an air cast boot untenable.  

Even if there is, surely common sense dictates that giving a zimmer frame away makes poor financial sense?  And what can be wrong with a re-used zimmer frame?  It’s just a lightweight metal frame, adjustable for the height of the user.  If the Red Cross can jet wash all items returned to them before re-issue, why can’t the NHS?

This is of course just one example – how do these figures add up when multiplied across thousands of patients and treatment regimes.  Any why isn’t someone called to account?

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