The United Kingdom’s beloved National Health Service is poorly. She is overworked, ill-treated and is struggling with money. Her boss; the government, is cutting her wages but expecting the same results, all whilst her customers and reviewers are rude, demanding and very ungrateful. It almost sounds like life in retail.
Recently, the NHS’ Accident and Emergency departments have been struggling with a rise in people using the service. It is a well-known fact that NHS budgets have been cut so hospitals are struggling primarily with staffing levels, which directly affect admitted patients.
However with A&E, the number of people arriving there, either by ambulance or of their own accord, affects the service greatly too. It seems some people have forgotten what A&E actually is there for: accidents and emergencies. A&E does not mean “anything and everything”, as said by the College of Emergency Medicine, and rightly so.
A sore throat is not an emergency. A small burn from your straighteners is not an emergency. Minor cuts and scratches from your cat is not an emergency. It may seem self-explanatory but according to a Healthwatch England survey, one in five people confessed to knowingly using A&E for non-emergencies.
The opening hours of GPs and the introduction of the NHS 111 service have been blamed as to why people are going to A&E. GP opening hours have always generally been Monday to Friday but apparently there are suddenly too many people booking appointments.
For seasonal colds, coughs and sore throats it is obvious that rest and rehydration is the remedy; which does not require an appointment. It must be terribly repetitive for GPs to have to deal with cold after cold, but I guess they are paid enough to not complain.
People can also visit their pharmacy and talk to a Pharmacist who can do much more than label and hand over a prescription. The NHS 111 service is there to screen out non A&E worthy cases. So ask yourself, why are you phoning 111 instead of 999? Is it because you are panicking? Is it because you are hoping you are fine? Or is it because you can’t get hold of a GP?
It is this that the NHS 111 operators have to figure out. They ask a series of questions and, using computer software, determine whether an ambulance is needed. It is worth mentioning that these operators are not health professionals and they base their decisions on the computer software.
In August last year, 85% of all NHS 111 calls needed triage. Of which, ambulances were dispatched to 9%, recommendations to contact primary care were made to 53%, 7% were told to go to A&E, and 3% were advised to another service. Some people still believe the NHS 111 service directs people to A&E too much, but these operators would rather be safe than sorry, and these statistics prove that they do screen out non emergencies.
A&E is not a right, regardless of taxes paid or who you voted for. It is a service. This service deals with traumatic, life threatening emergencies every single day of the year. The staff are there to reassure, diagnose and heal. The sole purpose of their job is to help, so some attitudes of people waiting in A&E are absolutely disgusting.
The importance and severity of injuries is what determines who gets seen first. The person in the road traffic incident with their organs hanging out is indefinitely going to be seen before the person with a suspected broken finger. Frankly, if you can sit there and wait for four hours whilst drinking tea and chatting with other people waiting in A&E, you can wait a lot longer and probably should have gone to a walk-in centre.
The recent media furore around the waiting times meant that they interviewed a lot of people. The interviews generally went along the lines of the person detailing having to wait six hours to be seen and how they think it is awful. They waited six hours to be seen, and were treated and released on the same day. How bad were they?
The people fast tracked in the A&E system were still in hospital whilst the interviews were going on, so were not able to say that they were actually seen in half an hour. It is all to do with perspective and public perception. It seems the collective public of the UK may not actually like queuing as much as once thought, and they also panic a little too much.
The panic was apparent when Pauline Cafferky, a Scottish nurse who went to Sierra Leone to help in the fight against Ebola, contracted Ebola whilst there. On her return journey, she was screened multiple times at Heathrow airport before being allowed to fly onwards home to Scotland, but later was diagnosed with having Ebola.
There was a major uproar that health officials would allow someone with Ebola to enter and travel in the country. Cafferky had told officials at Heathrow that she was feeling a little unwell but her temperature, taken seven times over thirty minutes, was normal on every occasion. Hindsight is a double edged sword.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, gave numerous interviews to media outlets throughout that week in which Pauline Cafferky was diagnosed. Repeatedly she had to emphasise the screening process was thought to be appropriate at the time, as well as there being “no risk of transmission of the virus” from Cafferky because she was not symptomatic.
Interview after interview, Professor Davies had to wave off remarks essentially saying health officials had let Ebola into the country and it was all the shambolic screening process’ fault. Her calm and responsive manner was a great testament to her high degree of professionalism: I was yelling at the television.
Video: BBC news
There is no way science is one hundred percent accurate and one hundred percent definitive. There will always be a person who is unwell but all the laboratory tests show they are fine, someone who gets a very rare disease that is hard for Clinicians to diagnose, or that one person who gets whooping cough; even after having the vaccine (me).
Science information is widely accessible to the public, and just like the NHS, it can be misused. Professor Davies said the screening processes for aid workers will be reviewed, but apart from quarantining them all and taking periodic blood samples confirming Ebola, how can health officials stop British Citizens re-entering the country? I am sure Theresa May is sympathetic.
So people should stop panicking until actual Health professionals and Scientists say there is a fundamental problem. Even though the NHS has severe staffing and funding problems which are not the tax payers’ fault, the overuse of A&E and the pressure put on those staff is. There are other services available for minor injuries. Just remember, if you are feeling seriously unwell A&E is there for you; because it’s the service you need, not deserve.