If I needed hospital treatment the last person I’d like to see at my bedside is the Health Minister Jeremy Hunt. Just the sight of him would scare me to death.
This is the minister who admits that the level of support and care for people with dementia is ‘deplorable’, and the country has a long way to go.[i] [ii]Yet at the same time is pressurising GPs to increase numbers diagnosed, even demanding that they reach targets imposed on them! It flies in the face of advice from professional bodies like the Royal College of GPs, the BMA and government advisors. He has castigated GPs who express concerns about the lack of care as ‘nihilistic’. He ignores the fact that half the people sent to Memory Clinics by their GPs prove not to have dementia. Or of the terrible effects of a misdiagnosis. (An 88 year old sold her home after being told she had dementia and after a year in a specialist unit was told that it was only mild cognitive impairment. Read her story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-29567014. )
Today he’s announced that the NHS is to receive £8 billion, but that it must stop making excuses and improve patient care. In an article for The Telegraph, he says that the health service has the money it needs and must now “deliver its side of the bargain” and make “substantial and significant” savings. It has the feel of throwing the dog a bone and telling it to sit up and bark.
Among my friends are Hospital Chaplains. They tell me how they work to support hospital staff working long hours, under pressure. How the best nurses and doctors deplore the tick-box, defensive culture they’ve been forced into. Looking from the outside in, it seems the whole system has become politicised. No wonder our GPs are taking early retirement and nurses leaving to work in Agencies where they are paid more and treated better.
We need to pray for our doctors, consultants and our nurses. They have been drawn into the profession because they want to do good – they want to help people. They have years of clinical training and experience, and they know what works at the coal face. Yet they are increasing under a political cosh from policy makers with no clinical training and who seem to be speaking from another planet.