Post-code lottery crisis is deepening in the NHS
05 Sep 2016The National Health Service should be genuinely national with everyone getting the care they need, wherever they live, free at the point of use.
But under the Tories unacceptable regional variations in care are widening. So anyone living in the prosperous Home Counties area of Aylesbury Vale area and suffering from dementia had a five out of six chance that their care was reviewed in the last 12 months. But if you happen to live in Somerset the prospect of the same type of review falls to less than a 50:50.
This is just the latest effect of the post-code lottery highlighted by the Department of Health’s own statistics, and basic levels of care for Alzheimer’s sufferers or people with dementia are not even the worst examples in the NHS in England.
The percentage of people who were discharged from hospital following a stroke but later readmitted was 60 times greater between the highest and lowest clinical commissioning group (CCG). The variation in the rate of quitting smoking was 26 times among residents of different local authorities. The hospital admission rate for over-75s from nursing home or residential care was 604 times greater in one CCG than the lowest rate. The list is extreme and almost endless.
Life expectancy at birth is one of the most telling statistics signifying overall health, well-being and prosperity. It is a scandal that geographical inequality of life expectancy has increased under the Tories. Male life expectancy is 82.5 years for those in this highest-paid jobs, and just 74 years for those on the lowest incomes. The gaps in life expectancy are increasing for black communities and for Asian communities.
What these enormous disparities show is that there are multiple sources of inequality for health outcomes. Clearly, one of these is simply the level of resources and attention devoted to specific conditions in different areas.
But another is the incidence of those conditions themselves, with poorer areas, or local authorities with poor housing, or communities suffering higher unemployment or lower incomes all suffering extreme disparities in the incidence of conditions ranging from bronchial diseases, mental health problems, propensity to smoke, cardiovascular disease and so on. Many of these are issues of public health related to poverty, employment opportunities and discrimination.
Women bear the majority burden of all societies’ ills, including the current Government’s underfunding of the NHS.
Black people suffer institutional racism. Sufferers of mental health problems have historically faced discrimination and even derision, not receiving the care they are entitled to. We have seen recently the
outrageous attempt to deny access to potentially life-saving drugs solely on the grounds that they are designed to prevent HIV.
The prevention, detection and treatment of medical and other conditions requires a genuinely holistic approach, which treats potential patients first as human beings. That means creating the conditions for a healthy and satisfying life and the proper NHS resources to intervene when problems arise. People ought to be able to enjoy the benefits of living in one of the richest countries in the world. There should be a right to a decent affordable home, good education and a decent job.
But this is proving impossible under austerity Britain. This Tory Government and its predecessor have presided over a housing crisis. Real pay has fallen for those in work. Social care and GP access has been cut. NHS waiting times and waiting lists have risen dramatically because of chronic underfunding.
David Cameron was fond of saying that a strong NHS needs a strong economy.
True, but he delivered neither. Not one of the current cabinet disagreed with the policy of public sector cuts.
By contrast, a Labour Government led by Jeremy Corbyn will always protect the NHS. But through a massive investment programme to get a real recovery, it will also address the shameful inequalities that blight our communities and the economic causes of poor health care.
*From The Times