How can the NHS improve?31st October 2007
The Telegraph examines the ongoing arguments about the future of the health service and argues that the system must change to favour its patients' needs.
People describe the NHS either as an organisation to be proud of or a "money-guzzling pit" that sustains a constantly increasing tribe of bureaucrats.
This newspaper has found information that demonstrates "a worrying shift towards the latter".
Many people in England leave the country in order to have operations such as heart surgery and hip replacements. They travel abroad in order to avoid being put in line on the waiting lists and to dodge the risk of contracting a superbug such as C. diff in hospital.
Research has also shown that the majority of nurses in hospitals in Britain spend over a third of their time per week sorting through paperwork. These two examples show that nurses are prevented from doing their jobs by bureaucracy and "patients are rightly disturbed by the results".
The film Sicko, by Michael Moore, condemns the healthcare system in America. The film praises the NHS as "a haven of kindly efficiency". It ignores the fact that the health service is reliant on funding by taxpayers in Britain and is failing to deliver "proper care in return".
The resignation of Nurse of the Year Justine Whitaker from Lancashire, over the mountains of paperwork that stop her seeing her patients, shows that the system is not working properly. The most important issues should be cleanliness and care, but these are lost in the need to reach targets and fill in forms.
The government has promised better care again and again, but the cracks in the system and operational problems dominate the NHS. Initiatives such as the new GP contract - raising salaries to an average of £120,000 while allowing 90% of GPs to decide they do not want to provide out-of-hours care - are indications that money is being wasted.
It is time for the government to make good on its promises and "really put the patient first".
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