LETTER: It’s a tragedy our NHS is ‘being left to die’

Doctors waiting room.

Doctors waiting room.

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I have several concerns and questions about the proposed changes to the way in which healthcare for older people is delivered in North Derbyshire.

The slogan used is ‘Better Care Closer to Home’, yet the proposal is to close or cease to provide beds in several local community hospitals. However a report out this month by the King’s Fund states that the number of district nurses has fallen by more than a quarter in the last five years. 
It would surely therefore make sense to retain these local hospital units as centres where elderly patients could be sent after events like hip replacement operations to recuperate and learn to walk once more with fully qualified staff to supervise this so that patients can benefit from their experience and expertise, whilst at the same time where ever possible being placed in the unit closest to their home. This would also give social services time for assessment and to set a suitable care package in place.

It is well known that the Government’s policy of austerity is hitting the NHS hard, and savings are being sought.

Similarly local authorities which provide our care services are also struggling to make ends meet.

I take my hat off to all those who work for these services and those who try to mitigate the effects of Government cuts for how well they have done in these circumstances. However it seems to me that the proposed changes are being driven by the Government’s agenda, which in the case of the NHS is distinctly suspect in my view, rather than by concern for the best outcomes for older people. Add to this mix the fact that many private care home companies are feeling the pinch due to austerity and it is clear to see that standards of care will suffer. 
The private care home providers can plug this gap by increasing their charges to “self funders”, many of whom are far from well off, so that in effect the slightly less poor are subsidising the very poor.

The rest of the shortfall in resources will, as Ms Cave points out, be largely met by unpaid carers, many of them elderly and not in the best of health themselves.

Any increase in the burden placed on these wonderful people is a false economy, as everyone has their breaking point and the NHS is likely to end up with many more patients to stretch the limited funds still further. It is a national disgrace that carers in receipt of State retirement pension cannot claim the meagre Carers’ Allowance.

Many of your readers will be aware of the scandalous 15 minute slots being allowed for paid care workers employed by private care providers.

In this time these poorly paid workers are expected to toilet, shower, dress and generally get elderly people ready to face the day. After this the care workers have to travel to the next patient without pay for the travelling time. Will well trained and experienced nursing staff be replaced by social care workers?

I am a disabled pensioner with an incurable progressive degenerative condition, and am old enough to remember the excitement, wonderment and sheer relief of ordinary working people such as my parents and grandparents when the NHS was first created. What a tragedy and betrayal it is that it is now being allowed to die by a government of people who don’t need the NHS or use it.

People born after the NHS came into being just do not realise the constant worry that previous generations had to face. Fear that they or their children would fall ill or have an accident, or that the breadwinner might become ill and not only be without wages to pay the rent or buy food, but also have to find the doctor’s or hospital fees and might be unable to afford treatment. Where a whole family became ill they had to prioritise which one would receive treatment

Unless we fight hard to keep it, the NHS will not always be there. We are told that this is the fifth, sixth or seventh richest country in the world, depending on which measurement you take. Surely in the 21st century we can afford to fund our citizens’ health properly?

Fran Street

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