Why the NHS is performing miracles

  • 18 January 2017
  • From the section Health
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It has been a remarkable few weeks for the health service hasn't it? The worst waiting times in A&E for over a decade. Patients left for hours on trolleys. Vital cancer operations being cancelled. Hospitals across the country declaring major alerts. A humanitarian crisis in the making, says the Red Cross.

But amid all this what we haven't heard is just how well the health service is coping. Given what it is facing, the NHS and, in particular, hospitals are performing miracles.

How? Let me explain. The NHS is in the middle of the most sustained squeeze on its funding in its history. Until 2010, the budget increased by an average of about 4% a year once inflation is taken into account to help it cope with rising pressures.

Since then, the average annual rise has been around 1% - and that will continue until 2020. The only period that comes close is the early 1950s when there was a cut in the NHS budget, prompting charging to be brought in for dentistry, prescriptions and spectacles.

And that was pretty quickly followed by large cash injections to get the NHS back on track.

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Is the NHS going to break in 2017?

  • 29 December 2016
  • From the section Health
Glass shattering Image copyright Thinkstock

The past few months - if not the whole year - have seen a constant stream of warnings about impending Armageddon in the health service.

We have heard how the system has reached various levels of crisis from "tipping point" and "breaking point" to "on the brink of collapse".

Read full article Is the NHS going to break in 2017?

Why council tax hike for care raises peanuts

  • 13 December 2016
  • From the section Health
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Over the years there have been some pretty radical suggestions to solve the care crisis. A cap on care costs, a "death tax" and even a full merger of the free-at-the-point-of-need NHS and means-tested social care systems have all been mooted.

But it appears the government in England is now looking at something much less reforming - giving town halls permission to increase council tax by more than they are currently allowed to.

Read full article Why council tax hike for care raises peanuts

How scrapping targets could help ambulances

  • 30 November 2016
  • From the section Health
Ambulance on journey Image copyright iStock

The ambulance service in the UK receives about 30,000 calls a day. Or, to put it another way, by the time you've finishing reading this article 30 people will have rung 999 pleading for help.

The challenge for the hard-pressed control centre staff is working out which cases are genuinely life threatening - and which are not - so they can prioritise where to send crews.

Read full article How scrapping targets could help ambulances

NHS cuts: Why they terrify people in power

  • 15 November 2016
  • From the section Health
Scared woman Image copyright Ingram Publishing

NHS England's handling of the hospital cuts programme seems a fairly ham-fisted way of going about a major review of local health services.

But there are understandable reasons why bosses fell into such a secretive and controlling approach. It is known as the Richard Taylor effect.

Read full article NHS cuts: Why they terrify people in power

Cancer care: Is world class status a distant dream?

  • 25 October 2016
  • From the section Health
Graphic Image copyright audumbla

Linear accelerators are wonderful machines. They deliver high-energy radiation to a tumour, helping to destroy cancer cells while sparing the normal tissue which surrounds them.

About four in 10 cancer patients get treated with one. So news that NHS bosses are launching a £130m investment to upgrade or replace half of England's stock in the next two years is understandably being welcomed.

Read full article Cancer care: Is world class status a distant dream?

NHS funding: Is £10bn rise really a cut?

  • 20 October 2016
  • From the section Health
Graphic Image copyright Qvasimodo

When it comes to the NHS budget, all sorts of figures get thrown around. You only need to have seen Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday or followed the various coverage about health spending since the weekend to see that.

Ministers like to make big play of the fact they've increased the budget by £10bn in England. Or is it £8bn (as NHS England boss Simon Stevens said this week), or £4.5bn (as MPs grilling Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed)?

Read full article NHS funding: Is £10bn rise really a cut?

How long do we really want to live?

  • 12 October 2016
  • From the section Health
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Ask people how long they want to live, and many will answer: "As long as I have my health."

But just how old is that? News last week that the limit on human life may be 115 has prompted a great deal of speculation about rising life expectancies.

Read full article How long do we really want to live?

The NHS: How bad will it get?

  • 30 September 2016
  • From the section Health
Doctor Image copyright Wavebreakmedia

Look at almost any measure of performance, and the NHS in England is getting worse.

Waiting times for cancer care, accident and emergency units, ambulances and routine operations are all rising, and targets are being missed left, right and centre.

Read full article The NHS: How bad will it get?

Consultants' private work: The gloves are off

  • 20 September 2016
  • From the section Health
Gloves Image copyright PongsakornJun

The fight over NHS consultants' private work - and that is exactly what this is - goes back to the very start of the NHS.

Speaking about the 1948 contract Nye Bevan, the founding father of the NHS, offered consultants, he said he had "stuffed their mouths with gold".

Read full article Consultants' private work: The gloves are off