Another week, another crisis in our Health Service. This time Antrim A&E had to close its doors over the weekend due to unprecedented demand. The core issue seems to be bed blocking. They can discharge patients, but there is nowhere for them to go as they are waiting on care packages or need to go into a care home to convalesce. It is a bit like a hotel, they can’t take more guests until the current ones leave.
But there is a more significant issue in all this, the continuing collapse of the Heath Service. It really is absofeckinlutely utterly stuffed.
As Peter Donaghy pointed out on Twitter, you’re over 1000 times more likely to wait over 2 years in NI compared with England.
I heard they were having a shindig in Stormont today, so here's the sort of thing they could discuss. In England 0.038% of people on waiting lists have been waiting over 2 years; the equivalent in NI is 38.5%, over a thousand times higher. One in 29 have been waiting over 5 years pic.twitter.com/bSsLDjeJEk
— Peter Donaghy (@peterdonaghy) October 27, 2022
It is now years to see a consultant, and then even more time until you can get treated. In some cases, you could be waiting over 5 years for treatment.
More than a third of Northern Ireland’s population – over 654,000 patients – is on a waiting list.
There are seven-year delays to see a specialist in areas such as rheumatology and neurology, while suspected cancer cases are waiting months in certain health trusts for a hospital appointment (the target is a fortnight).
— BMA Northern Ireland (@BMA_NI) November 11, 2022
So as you can see, the situation is pretty dire, but all we get from our politicians and the public is a collective shrug of the shoulders.
Recently I organised a Slugger live event to discuss the crisis in the GP service and sold a massive total of 4 tickets, I had to cancel the live event and make it a podcast instead. For comparison, in the same week, I sold 120 tickets at £20 a head for our End of Year Review. Now I know they are very different events, but I thought it was telling just how apathetic people are around the health debate.
So what is going on? I think there are a few issues:
It is a general theory that during the Troubles, we got used to ‘everything being sh*t’ as the default. If you don’t have any hope, you will never be disappointed. This makes us quite resilient and able to cope with our never-ending ‘crisises’ . The downside is that we have swung too far to the negative side of life and don’t even try to fix our problems.
The problem is really complex. I am interested in health, but even I find it incredibly complex to get my head around. There are so many organisations, trusts, care providers, private sector, public sector, different systems, different management etc. it is all very overwhelming. It is like in the old western movies when they open the door to the saloon, and there is a massive brawl going on, it is tempting to just close the doors and walk away.
We are unsure who to blame. You can’t blame the staff, they are saints among us. You can’t blame that nice man Robin Swann. What about the faceless bureaucrats? Well by their very nature no one knows who they are. Peter May is the current health head honcho but 99.9% of us would struggle to recognise him, and he is doing his best to stay invisible, and frankly who would want to be the public face of this clusterf*ck?
The one thing is certain the problem will get worse. The January A&E crisis is a story that runs every year, but this year it looks like it will be an entire winter of discontent for staff and patients alike.
If you have the money, my advice is to feck off to Lanzarote for the winter. If you need to stay around, research Bupa or Benenden. But the problem with private care is it is not much use for emergency stuff like heart attacks, strokes, car crashes etc. they really is no alternative to a properly structured Health Service.
In the meantime, the private sector is doing great, Kingsbridge had a turnover of £41.9 million last year. We now have a two-tier system, if you can pay, you get treated, if you can’t pay, you become number 654,001 on the waiting list.
There is one upside to apathy. Just get on and do the reforms needed, there will be a bit of local moaning, but most people will not notice or care.
Going forward I think they need to appoint a Chief Executive for the Health service and remove it from the hands of the politicians. You can have an oversight board as we have with the police. We know what needs to be done; we just need someone to have the cahones to get on and do it.
I help to manage Slugger by taking care of the site as well as running our live events. My background is in business, marketing and IT. My politics tend towards middle-of-the-road pragmatism, I am not a member of any political party. Oddly for a member of the Slugger team, I am not that interested in daily politics, preferring to write about big ideas in society. When not stuck in front of a screen, I am a parkrun Run Director.