Over the summer months, the NHS has regularly been in the news headlines again with one problem after another. Here are two recent examples:- “Thousands have surgery cancelled at last minute” (The Times – 15th August) “Dementia care lottery exposed” (Daily Mail – 16th August) There are many more stories in the media about hospitals under pressure; extended waiting times at A & E; reduction of health services and threatened closure of departments due to cuts in budgets. BUT, the headline that caught my eye most was in The Times on the 12th August:-
“NHS crisis deepens as bed blocking costs £6 billion”
You would think this would herald a great debate. After all £6 billion is a lot of money. To quote from the article again, the situation was:- “pushing hospitals to breaking point” “tens of thousands of patients experienced delay in being discharged” “A & E waiting times for June were the worst ever” “the shortage of emergency doctors was leading to a real crisis” “ambulance response times failed to meet the required standard” “cancer care waiting times also missed their targets” Fortunately a week later, The Times printed this retraction, albeit in a very small front page paragraph which would be easily overlooked:- “We said in a front page report that bed blocking costs the NHS £6 billion a year. Official estimates put the costs at £820 million. We apologise for the serious error”.
So that’s alright then!
The fact that nobody was alarmed, either by the headline or the crisis situation that was described in the article beneath, should tell us a lot about the way the NHS is perceived today. Everyone knows that the total cost of the NHS is astronomical and a few billion pounds being lost in one way or another is accepted as small change. Equally nobody seems to be alarmed about the dramatic descriptions about the crisis in the NHS since we all seem to feel that little can be done about it. The very fact that other parts of the media didn’t instantly correct the Times’ miscalculation, says much about the way that they too have given up on controlling the black hole that NHS finances had become. It all reinforces the myth that older people are causing the problem in the NHS because not only do they get ill, but when they are eventually hospitalised, they stay in for far too long. Perhaps “society” thinks that older people enjoy their stays in hospital so much that they would like to extend their holiday away from home.
None of this makes sense but neither do alarmist headlines in The Times.