Published: 4 May, 2012
• “I LOVE the NHS, don’t get me wrong and I never thought I would ever say this… but we may end up, and it may be the best thing, with private insurance to make sure the people who have paid into the NHS through their contributions over years get what they are fully entitled to and people who haven’t, often from outside the EU, don’t.”
These are the words of an NHS nurse, with more than eight years’ experience, repeating a common theme being muttered by many.
I have been in hospital three times this year, most recently in the last eight days.
My most recent visit offered a view of how medical staff were treating each other, how the NHS was treating them, and as a consequence the quality of care delivery for patients.
Many will have heard over the last 10 years of NHS trusts’ growing incremental use of, or reliance on, agency staff.
There is a huge pay difference, which has not helped the anger and resentment of permanent staff, of between £8.75 an hour and £28, in essence for doing the same job.
This may be a false economy to help make the spreadsheets look good while avoiding paying permanent staff or dealing with their pensions.
Many permanent staff are exhausted by doing the jobs of agency staff. “It’s often quicker to do the job yourself than explain again and again what is wrong with a patient, how to handle them, what to do and where things are to people who you know will not be here tomorrow,” said an NHS nurse.
I witnessed the tick-box culture many complain of, a source of growing discontent, tension and mistrust.
I was on a ward with four beds and two dedicated nurses per shift.
I spent one day like a time-and-motion study man.
On average, over a 12-hour shift, each nurse spent less than one hour 45 minutes each dealing with us, with the majority of their time allocated to form-filling and ticking those endless boxes. On one occasion I saw a nurse hide behind a cabinet so she could fill out the forms in peace.
Should those who see universal health care as a national treasure address the possibility of a type of national health insurance?
Maybe we need reminding that we already have one way of confirming who is entitled to health care – the European health insurance card – but is it implemented thoroughly?
We do need to address this issue before we become party to Andrew Lansley’s creeping privatisation, justified on the back of private profit as opposed to our need for decisions taken in the best public interest, duty and service.