The National Health Service Faces a Crisis, as Does British Society

An emergency prompts a columnist to advocate for her nation's healthcare

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by Mary Shaniqua |

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Last month, I suffered a sickle cell crisis. After battling the pain for four days, I decided to go into the hospital on Dec. 12. Unfortunately, that was a challenge.

The first hurdle was securing an ambulance. For the first time in my life, I was put on hold to wait for an available call handler. I was then told an ambulance would be with me after 50 minutes. But two and a half agonizing hours passed before the ambulance arrived.

When I arrived at the hospital, checking in took a considerable length of time. I was given my first dose of oxycodone for pain relief after I’d been at the hospital for over two hours. After that dose, I was moved into the corridor. Yes, that’s right — the corridor! Which was being staffed by paramedics, as the doctors and nurses were insanely overwhelmed.

My care plan permits pain relief hourly, and the NICE guidelines dictate a pain reassessment every 30 minutes. Because the service was so busy, however, roughly five hours passed before I got my next dose.

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Here in England, I’ve had much interaction with the National Health Service (NHS) throughout my childhood and into adulthood. I’ve had some bad experiences, yes, but I’ve never seen anything quite as bad as on Dec. 12. The wards were full, with doctors and nurses rushing to care for patients, and paramedics were running the accident and emergency department, which was flooded with patients in every bed and chair. The overflow spilled into the corridors as far as the eye could see.

Patients weren’t receiving medication or treatment on time. Getting water was an arduous task. I never thought I’d see the day when the NHS would come to this.

The challenge

Paramedics get only very basic medical training and thus aren’t adequately equipped to lead the triage and treatment of patients in a hospital. The demand they faced prevented them from doing their actual jobs — providing frontline emergency care in the community and bringing patients into the hospital.

The NHS is part of the bedrock of British society. Government policy has slowly but steadily stripped its funding and degraded service provision to the point where it’s now unrecognizable.

Unlimited access to quality, timely, and targeted healthcare permits me to live a relatively normal life with the otherwise fatal sickle cell disease. I’ve been able to secure a good education right up to postgraduate level and build a solid career. I’m able to work, making a living for myself. I’m free to live relatively independently, and for this decent quality of life, I’m eternally grateful.

All of that has been available to me thanks to an effective NHS. If the service is erased or even degraded, I will be, too. Reducing the frequency or quality of my outpatient treatments, medications, and acute inpatient services will almost certainly affect my ability to work and thus my independence. Many other patients have similar stories.

Healthcare professionals work extremely hard, day in and day out, to keep British people healthy and safe. They save our lives and battle to keep us all well. Considering how much they’ve sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for us, it’s only right that they’re paid accordingly.

What I advocate

I’m calling on the government to increase the wages of healthcare professionals. I also encourage the government to think of those of us who make up society. Consider those who are disabled, vulnerable, and from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Think of how imperative the NHS is for people like me. Then provide adequate funding to keep the NHS running and pay our healthcare professionals a decent wage.

To all the medical personnel across my nation, I’m standing with your fight for positive change within the NHS and an equitable remuneration package for you all.

Perhaps in 2023, we’ll see these positive changes, for the good of British people.

Note: Sickle Cell Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell disease.


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