03 July 2023

NHS at 75 – patients being penalised for living longer, top medic warns

03 July 2023

The British public are being “penalised” for for living longer as funding for the NHS has “not lived up to what is needed”, a top doctor has warned.

Dr Phil Banfield, chairman of council at the British Medical Association, said the Government does not appear to “recognise the value of the NHS”.

He said that politicians “promise everything to the people and yet fail in their promises to the staff”.

We are a shrinking health service with increasing need and that just doesn't square the circle

And he highlighted that the average European country is paying far more for healthcare, leaving Britain lagging behind in terms of funding.

But he said that he is still “immensely proud” to work in the health service – which is celebrating its 75th anniversary on July 5.

In an interview with the PA news agency, Dr Banfield said: “If we go back to the start of the NHS, it was based on the premise that once you made everyone better, everyone would be well and therefore the NHS would need to treat fewer and fewer patients.

“And of course, what’s happened is success has meant that people have been living longer and the NHS has expanded in the things that it can do.

“When I started medicine over 30 years ago there would be one CT scanner in a region – you would have to send your patients to another hospital to get a scan – now you can get them from the emergency department; the number of operations that we do and the way we do operations has changed; the way that we deliver drugs has changed; the way we treat cancer has changed.

“So, an enormous amount of progress, and it’s almost as if the patients, the population, have been penalised for now living longer because the investment in the NHS has just not lived up to what is needed.”

He added: “The difficulty is that politicians promise everything to the people and yet just fail in their promises to the staff and the current issue, predominantly in terms of staffing, is a lack of value in nurses as well as doctors, and it’s driving nurses and doctors out of the health service.

“That’s creating shortages, there are gaps, it means that agency staff are more expensive to put in place, it means the operations are cancelled every day because of staff shortages.

“We’ve halved the number of beds over the last 20 years.

“We are a shrinking health service with increasing need and that just doesn’t square the circle.

“If you have a look at the investment that Government should have put in, if they were investing up to the European average over the last 10 years, they’re over £40 billion short.”

But he added: “I’m still immensely proud to work in the NHS.

“It’s not just an achievement but it is something that we’ve been born in to, grown up in, our relatives have died in.

“Every day an enormous amount of fantastic care is given by staff who go above and beyond in really testing and trying circumstances.

“So overwhelmingly, if you are sick, the NHS is exactly the right place for you.

“The difficulty, of course, are the challenges ahead.

“Sadly, this Government doesn’t show much signs of recognising the NHS and the value of the NHS. It will be this Government’s legacy.

“If it ends up having been the instigator of the managed decline of the NHS … that will be to the detriment of patients and this country.”

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