On the Agenda: NHS Debate on prime-time TV

Opinion logoDoctors for the NHS Chair Eric Watts was invited to be part of the studio audience for a new series of topical discussion programmes by ITV, The Agenda. The opening subject of this week’s prime-time debate (18 October, 8-9 pm) was on the financial state of the NHS, and a panel of experts gave their opinions before members of the audience were asked to comment.

Dr Eric Watts - DFNHS Chair

Dr Eric Watts – DFNHS Chair

“The first half of the programme was on the NHS and the first 15 minutes looked at the overall finance position. The service is struggling and yet is supposed to make £20 billion efficiency savings by 2020.

“The Government claims to have come to the rescue with an extra £12 billion but the independent experts Nigel Edwards and Chris Ham (from the King’s Fund) unpacked the figures: allowing for paying off the deficits most hospitals have there is little extra and the growth in demand, e.g. emergency admissions is 4% annually, against a real terms funding increase of 1%.

“Nigel Edwards and others commented that it was unrealistic to expect major efficiencies whilst struggling to break even at present. It was left to comedian Rory Bremner, though, to point out that 80% of trusts are already in debt!

“Interestingly, polls of the public (commissioned for the programme) showed most were in favour of an extra 2p on tax – which http://www.eta-i.org/cialis.html could bring in another £10 billion – and a clear majority were against charging to see a GP or for outpatients. This gives a lie to the mantra that putting up taxes for the public good is a heresy, when the public realise only too well that a decent NHS needs decent funding and they are in fact prepared to pay for it through more taxes. Will this government listen? Their capacity for deafness on this issue is legion, but the message is plain.

“The effect of the funding crisis was made clear in heartfelt comments by a junior doctor – Nadia Masood –  who described the real difficulties at work through lack of resources. One such problem is the cut in funding for social care which faces a £2.6 billion shortfall and 25% fewer people receive care now compared with 5 years ago. The knock-on effect to the NHS is that patients are kept in hospital longer than need be if care were available at home.

“Though inevitably constrained by the ‘vox pop’ culture framing many such programmes, I felt some good points were made, if a little haphazardly; the programme makers were clearly still feeling their way in getting this tricky format right, but it was right to start with the NHS and the crippling problems it faces.”



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