HELEN BURTON: Core principles of the NHS are being undermined

Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001
Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001
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This week news broke that Sussex hospitals are nearly 100 million pounds in debt, with Eastbourne DGH being responsible for almost half that figure.

Worrying isn’t it? The headlines make you think about management incompetence and irresponsibility. But think about the situation from a different angle. What this figure means to me is that Sussex hospitals needed nearly £100million pounds more funding in order to function during the last year and that Eastbourne DGH is at the brunt of massive government underfunding.

We all know that hospitals are under pressure. This year I’ve experienced the DGH as both a visitor and patient, and it is easy to see that the cracks are starting to show. As always, frontline staff are amazing but clearly more investment is needed in both staff and services. As if it isn’t bad enough that services are split between two hospitals with appalling transport links between them we now have evidence of the level of underfunding that staff are trying to cope with. I still don’t understand how health bosses and MPUnders allowed the split of services to happen when it is so clearly unacceptable in many ways, but there are other problems which are undermining the core principles of the NHS. The NHS was set up to provide free health care for all, but those rights are slowly being eroded. On the front page of the government leaflet produced to launch the NHS it states ‘It will provide you with all medical, dental and nursing care’. Try finding an NHS dentist these days without paying something! Some services are a postcode lottery. If you are overweight or a smoker you may be refused services altogether. If some treatment is too expensive it may be denied you. It broke my heart recently to see a little boy on the news, knocking on the door of number 10 to hand in a letter asking why he was denied an operation on the NHS which could have enabled him to walk. He was only able to walk up to the door because a local philanthropist read about his story in the local paper and paid for the operation himself. Is this what the NHS has been reduced to? A series of checks and balances that are about finances more than they are about patient care? The front page of the leaflet also says ‘But it is not a charity. You are all paying for it, mainly as taxpayers’. It’s true. We do pay for the NHS with our taxes, so why does the government continue to underfund it? We are seeing the dissolution of the NHS but because it is being done in a piecemeal way we are letting it happen. We all need to ask of our MPs what they are doing about the NHS, and locally, we need to know why the DGH is not being funded in a way that enables it to do its staff to do their job.