Weekly Poll- Pressure on the NHS
Each week Disability Equality Scotland sends out a poll question to our members on a topical issue and in January 2023, we asked our members about pressure on the NHS. Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect the policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.
Results: 76 respondents
Are you concerned about the current pressure on the NHS?
We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.
The State of the NHS-
Respondents found that NHS staff are not given the respect they deserve, being subjected to intense stress, dehumanization, and even abuse in the workplace. The pressure NHS staff are subjected to has been intensified during COVID-19 and now the winter flu. NHS staff do not receive sufficient pay that is in line with inflation or that provides an incentive for staff to join or stay with the NHS.
‘We have fewer hospital beds than several countries in Europe and pay our medical professionals significantly less. I’ve now lost count of how many medical professionals I’ve known who have moved abroad (especially to Australia) where they can often earn more than double, with shorter hours, and significantly reduced levels of stress’.
‘They are over-worked and under paid and they deserve more recognition for what they do’.
‘It really annoys me to see the pressures that these people have been under, especially during Covid and now with the winter flu, being treated as they are’.
As a result of this the NHS is becoming increasingly short-staffed, which then intensifies the pressure for NHS staff and has a direct impact on patient wellbeing. Staff are over-stretched and unable to provide adequate care for patients with an insufficient number of beds and extremely long wait times, especially in Emergency Care. It is however important to recognize that this is a problem that has been present long before now and that over-stretching is also present within outpatient care and GPs. Respondents reported that they are unable to reliably access medical appointments and treatments, especially face-to-face.
‘While I am concerned about the pressure on the NHS at this point in time it is the same every year at this time and is nothing new… If this keeps going the way it is just now it is very likely that the system will collapse at some point in time during the Winter over the next few years’.
‘I have been a patient left in a corridor with a drip in for over 10 hours so have personal experience. The only time I saw staff was to change my drip, no food or even water was provided. I would not wish others to suffer the same or worse, however I know I’m certainly not alone. The NHS needs to be looked at because in no way does it do what it was set up to do’.
‘I haven’t seen my rheumatologist for four years and so have had no routine bloods in that time to check my response to medication or levels of inflammation. These things concern me, but friends and family have had worse issues with lack of access to treatment. It is frightening’.
Throughout the NHS the long wait times and inadequate standard of care is either pushing disabled people towards private treatment, despite this creating significant financial strain, or towards not seeking the medical help they require. This strain is additionally present within the social care system with respondents finding social care staff are also underpaid and overworked. This system is also now understaffed as a result of this and inadequately managed. This means the social care system is often unable to fulfil its responsibilities, which end up feeding back into the NHS.
‘Social care should be a health matter. Get carers paid properly – many are leaving to work in Supermarkets for better pay – who can blame them?’
‘It’s fine Nicola Sturgeon is putting more beds in care homes, but they are just as bad as NHS as they need more staff. Personally, I can’t see by doing this it will help an awful lot’.
Support for strike action-
Due to the state of the NHS, many respondents highlighted their support for the current industrial action NHS staff are participating in. Respondents found industrial action is an important opportunity to listen to those working every day in the NHS and raise awareness of the key issues.
‘The people on the ground need to be listened to, NOT robbed off! This is ultimately about patient care and the Government must listen and do something major to turn the tide on the rot, actually invest dedicated time, effort and money’.
‘My heart goes out to all health staff. I was NHS trained before disability. It is a tough job, totally understand why they are striking’.
‘No worker wants to strike… they have gone through every other possible avenue available to them before taking strike action. This is the only action that makes people notice them or understand why there is a need to strike’.
Respondents found industrial action is a necessary last resort NHS staff have been pushed into due to poor working conditions. We should therefore not vilify them for participating in this industrial action, especially after the pressure and danger NHS staff faced during the pandemic. We can instead voice concern around how the current strain on the NHS will impact disabled people whose lives rely on NHS services and encourage the Scottish government to act.
‘I worry about my elderly parents’ needs as they rely on the NHS and live on an island on the West coast of Scotland. The service there is extremely stretched as it is, and they don’t have a bank of staff to call on when their staff strike. I understand why they are doing it and support them however I am sick with worry how this will impact the service on the island’.
‘I survived septic shock against all odds. I am at increased risk of this happening again if I have an infection. I am concerned that in the current climate I would not get an ambulance promptly nor be assessed very quickly to receive lifesaving treatment. Time makes the difference between life and death’.
‘Strike action is a scary prospect, but the blame lies squarely at the feet of government’.
Suggestions for change-
Respondents suggested many things that need to change to reduce the long-lasting pressure on the NHS. Firstly, the NHS needs to be made the full priority of both the UK and Scottish government. There needs to be greater investment of money but also time and energy to regenerate this system and there needs to be greater transparency around finances and how they are wasted within the current system. If money is not redirected towards staff this does not provide an incentive to join and stay in the NHS, which respondents found could lead to its collapse. Secondly, the government needs to continue to provide and promote other options than emergency care, such as 111, redirecting to GP, and supporting community services that can promote healthy lifestyle practices.
Another issue that respondents identified is that under the current UK government it feels there is a push towards a privatized British healthcare system which continues to deprioritize improving the current NHS. Moving towards a privatized system will be especially detrimental for disabled people and instead the government must value and rebuild the current system. It was also recognized that providing beds in care homes can only be a temporary solution and merging social care and the NHS is a bad idea. Overall, there is major concern around NHS staff wellbeing and the NHS’ longevity under current conditions with respondents urging the government to act and reprioritize the NHS.