‘IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER’
As we approach the season of ‘peace and goodwill to all’, West Cornwall HealthWatch members are painfully aware of the situations in which so many of our residents currently find themselves, which brings neither peace nor goodwill to them:
• Those who are a long way down a very long waiting list for surgery or other treatment for painful, or urgent, or life threatening conditions and are finding their situation very difficult to endure
• Those who have waited many hours for an ambulance, or in A&E, and whose conditions have worsened while they waited
• Those who have been prematurely discharged from hospital, because of the immense pressure on bed occupancy, and who in too many cases have returned hours or days later because they were so unwell
• Those who have been unable to see their GP, or indeed any doctor, for a condition which really needed treating but wasn’t; and who don’t know what to do next
This is not a reflection on the staff, who have been under intolerable pressure particularly since the start of the pandemic, and who have worked through it all with incredible fortitude. Bravo to them all.
Neither can it all be blamed on COVID, although the pandemic has highlighted the fragility of our health and care system.
The fact is that for years the NHS, the ambulance service, and Social Care, have been hard-pressed and stretched beyond their capacity. For some years before COVID, hospital beds have been reduced, hospitals have been closed, patients have been left at home with inadequate care, GPs have been leaving the profession while more has been expected of them, and ambulances have been queued at Treliske. Meanwhile, we have been slipping and sliding down the league tables which measure the spend on health and care of countries around the world. Once the envy of the world, the National Health Service is now failing its people in many areas.
The situation is compounded by a series of changes over the years in the way health and care are managed, and we are currently in the midst of massive managerial changes yet again – we are tempted to say that once again the government is ‘fiddling while Rome burns’. We witness consultancies being wheeled in, at vast expense, to analyse what is going wrong, and who fail to come up with solutions. We observe changes at the top, power struggles between partners, and a remarkable ability to talk for hours without seeming to recognise exactly what is happening on the ground, to ordinary people, every day. We become increasingly aware of the services which are no longer available, unless you pay for them – privatisation is alive and well, and profiting enormously from it all.
It is a sorry state of affairs to be in, and West Cornwall HealthWatch – which has campaigned to safeguard and improve health services in the west of Cornwall for over twenty five years – has never known such a difficult time. We are close to despair. However, we cannot give up, for the sake of our neighbours, families and friends in our communities here in the far west. Please join with us, support us, and fight for the future of our NHS – ‘free at the point of delivery, from cradle to grave’ – as we approach 2022.
And a happy Christmas to you all! Please keep well.